Solving Analogies

Most standardized exams include questions in the form of analogies. Solving analogies tests your critical thinking skills, vocabulary skills, as well as your understanding of word relationships. An analogy is a word problem comprised of two different pairs of words. The word problem is set up to reveal one set of words first. This first pair of words is related to each other in some way. Then the problem gives you the first word of the second pair, and it asks you to complete the second pair by choosing a second word. This second word must be related to the first word in the same manner that the first pair of words is related to each other.

Here is an example:
Graceful : Clumsy :: Hot : ____

Graceful and clumsy is the first set of words. Hot is the first word of the second set; the second word of the second set must be provided by you. The two sets of words are divided by the double colon in between them. This analogy reads as follows (and all analogies read in the same fashion, of course substituting the appropriate words): Graceful is to clumsy as hot is to (blank). You are first being asked to compare the relationship between graceful and clumsy. Then you need to find the word that relates to hot in the same way that graceful and clumsy relate to one another. Because graceful and clumsy are opposites of each other, we need a word that is the opposite of hot. Thus, filling in the blank with the word cold is the correct answer to this analogy. Most, but not all, relationships between words fall into one of several categories. Synonyms are words that have the same or similar meanings. Mad and angry are synonyms. Antonyms, on the other hand, are words that have opposite meanings. Hot and cold, as in the example above, are antonyms. Descriptive analogies are when one word describes the other. For example, tall would describe a giraffe. Part-to-whole analogies are when one word is a part or a piece of the other word. For example, a piece is part of a puzzle, and a slice is part of a pizza. An item-to-category analogy is when the first word is the item in the category named by the second word. Monopoly falls under the category of board games, while basketball falls under the category of sports.

Not all analogies will fall into one of the above categories. You may even be faced with a pair of words that seem to have nothing to do with each another. If this happens, try to read the analogy as a sentence. For example, Puppy : Dog :: Kitten : ___. The first two words are not synonyms or antonyms. It is not a descriptive analogy, nor is it a part-to-whole analogy or an item-to-category analogy. Try, then, so translate the analogy into a sentence. A puppy is a baby dog, while a kitten is a baby ___. Filling in the blank with the word cat is the correct answer.


Last Updated: May 31, 2019