The top 8 competitors advance to a single elimination playoff, which is conducted on stage in front of an audience. This is probably the most exciting part of the competition to watch, because you get to see people cry when they lose. Just kidding! Everyone is a great sport. But it can get pretty dramatic. Please google what happened to me last year (example 1).
Anyways, the first event is Random Words. The competitors go backstage for 15 minutes to memorize a set of 200 words (or as many as they can). Now, most people can't memorize 200 words that fast. And if they tried, they would risk being shaky on the first few. So this event is pretty strategic. You need to memorize the absolute minimum that you think the bottom seed competitors will max out at. Which can be tough to guess.
What happens is, the competitors are randomly ordered on stage and the microphone is passed along as each person says the next word that was on the list. The first 3 to get one wrong are out, no mercy. You can be easily eliminated if you say "shoe" when the word was "shoes" or, if you forget the word entirely, or if you weren't able to memorize up to that many words in the first place.
So its all a balance of how many words you can squeeze into your brain in 15 minutes and how well you can have them stick. Whats nice is that I can memorize a lot of words. Other competitors will know that....so will they scramble to memorize more words and potentially lose the clarity of the words they could have memorized if they did less? I am just as likely to make a mistake and be eliminated by going for too many words. Who knows? It's really tricky. And you could be just having an off day.