After endless hours of accounting homework, struggling through group case study meetings and cramming for the next midterm, adding another two hours to the daily grind just doesn’t seem possible. However, for Fisher students Samarth Malhotra, and brothers, George and Henry Miller-Davis, reading the Wall Street Journal for a few hours every day for five weeks became more than just a casual activity over morning coffee.
All three accounting honors juniors, swept the competition at the Wall Street Journal Challenge on Feb. 26 at Texas A&M. Taking home first prize for Ohio State, the team excelled in the quiz bowl style competition.
The questions were inspired by 5 weeks worth of content from each section of the Wall Street Journal. The required reading amounted to approximately 50 articles per day of topics to ranging from technology to investments and everything in between.
During his freshman year, George participated on the winning team in Fisher’s “Mini Biz Quiz” competition. Thereafter, he aspired to take his skills to the next level and did so with help from the advising staff, recruited teammates Henry and Malhotra, and coach, Tada Yamamoto, a first-year MBA student.
Planning is everything and played a key role in the success from day one. To break down the workload, each member specialized in one section of the journal, while simultaneously skimming the rest. Between taking notes and making flashcards, the team met weekly to test the accumulation of material. Yamamoto prepared quizzes for the team to work on and ultimately improved team dynamic. At the end of five weeks of preparation, the team had 200 pages of notes, 2500 flashcards and an abundance of knowledge dancing through their heads.
Although some might assume their immense knowledge of the Wall Street Journal ultimately crowned the team champions, there was a unanimous agreement of the most important strategy: buzzer skills. Henry explained listening for keywords like ‘who,’ ‘what’ or ‘which’ were important indications for figuring out the answer for each question. Without actually knowing the whole question, team members could trace it back to an article and guess what the answer would be based on process of eliminating facts already stated in the question.
“You’d hear part of sentence, buzz in, and then reconstruct the rest of it in your mind and answer it. Other people weren’t able to accurately do the same thing, and when they tried to buzz in before us to beat us, they were just missing points,” Henry says. With 30 seconds to answer a question after buzzing in, the team could afford to buzz in early and discuss the answer.
“Everyone knows the stuff,” George says. “It comes down to when can you answer the question, not can you answer it.” Extreme skill at this method was shown in the final question of the final round. The team buzzed in after hearing two words, “El Chapo,” and earned one last point.
Through all the positive strengths, the team also faced a few challenges. “Preparing, getting through the material, and maintaining the motivation for five weeks straight was tough,” says Malhotra. Additionally, the team found out the hard way that the content in the printed paper differs slightly from the digital version. After consistently studying the digital version, the team realized the discrepancy and found about 50 additional articles to read right before the competition.
Despite the declining motivation and slight setbacks, the quick strategy and dedicated commitment allowed them to win 33-10-3 in the final round against the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M.
In addition to the team competition, there was also an individual round where each team member took a written exam. However, the strategy for winning proved to be different. “You can specialize on the oral team competition, but our team was different because we all had some idea about the rest of the paper outside of our respective sections. Individually, you had to know it all,” George says. Henry and George took first and second place as individual performers, respectively.
While the possibility of participating in the Wall Street Journal Challenge next year looms in the horizon, the team agrees they must consider the time commitment closely before definitively committing. Malhorta is enthusiastic to continue on with competitions and has completed 16 business competitions in his career thus far.
Reflecting over the entire process, Henry says, “You spend six weeks dedicating all that time for one day – but it’s a really fun day.”