How to Answer Analogy Questions

Quick List of Solving Analogy Strategy

1. Practice Practice Practice!   See practice questions here

2. Give an exact answer!  Objective not subjective.  Your subjective answer is not going to be the correct answer!  See below for examples.

3. Learn the main types of relationships.   See below for a complete list

4. Read the given analogy in a sentence.   For example, Given A, is related to Given B, in the same way Choice #1 A, is related to Choice #1 B.

5. Switch the order of the choices given.

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Verbal analogies can be tricky for anyone, which is why it is important to have strategies to have a better chance of choosing the correct answer. Many College Entrance Exams and High School tests, especially the Nelson Denny Exam have large Verbal Analogy sections.  Catholic High School Entrance Exam, including the HSPT, TACHS, COOP, Upper Level SSAT and ISEE all have verbal analogy sections as well.  The following verbal analogies strategies will help you to excel with these types of tests and/or problems:

1. The only way to become better at anything is to practice and the same is true for verbal analogies. You can do this by finding old tests, with the answers, or find examples in your textbooks or the book similar to what is listed in Appendix A. There really is not any other way to study for verbal analogies than by practicing them. You can start up to a month in advance practicing an hour a day.

2. It does not matter how many relationships you can find between the words given in a verbal analogy, what is important is that you give the answer the test-maker is looking for. This strategy is to give the exact answer. Many times, the relationships you think you see are much more in depth than what the test maker is looking for. The following is an example of what this means:


a. sweetness: bitterness

b. segregation: integration

c. equality: government

d. fanaticism: intolerance

You might automatically think that ‘bigot’ is to ‘hate’ or that ‘bigots hate’ is very similar to ‘c.’ as equality is normally associated with the government or ‘d.’ ad fanatics are often seen as intolerable. The problem is that this way of thinking is subjective or prejudiced and that not everyone thinks like this, so how can those choices be true. You will notice though, that choices ‘b.’ and ‘d.’ are not a subjective thought but rather a social extreme, just as ‘Bigotry/hatred’ is. The way to narrow down the choices more is by looking at the words in accordance to each other, ‘bigotry and hatred’ are similar terms, but choice ‘b.’ is not, they are opposite words. ‘d.’ would be the correct choice because they are also similar terms.

3. Another strategy you can use with verbal analogies is to pick out a word or words that are similar to those in the analogy. This means to find a word that will name the relationship of the given words. The main relationships found in analogies and are listed below:

– Purpose: This means that ‘A’ is used for ‘B’ the same way that ‘X’ is used for ‘Y’.

– Cause and Effect: This means that ‘A’ has an effect on ‘B’ the same way that ‘X’ has an effect on ‘Y’.

– Part to Whole (individual to group): This means that ‘A’ is a part of ‘B’ the same way that ‘X’ is a part of ‘Y’

– Part to part: ‘A’ and ‘B’ are both parts of something the way that ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are both parts of something

– Action to object: ‘A’ is done to ‘B’ the same way ‘X’ is done to ‘Y’.

– Object to action: ‘A’ does something to ‘B’ just as ‘X’ does something to ‘Y’.

– Word meaning: ‘A’ means about the same as ‘B’ and ‘X’ means about the same as ‘Y’

– Opposite word meaning: ‘A means about the opposite of ‘B’ and ‘X’ means about the opposite of ‘Y’

– Sequence: ‘A’ comes before (or after) B’’ just as ‘X’ comes before (or after) ‘Y’.

– Place: ‘A’ and ‘B’ are related places just as ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are related places.

– Magnitude: ‘A’ is greater than (or less than) ‘B’ and ‘X’ is greater than (or less than) ‘Y’.

– Grammatical: ‘A’ and ‘B’ are parts of speech related to each other-noun to noun, adjective to noun, etc.-in the same way that parts of speech ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are related to each other.

4. The next strategy is to read the verbal analogies in sentences. If you take the example above, you could read it something like this ‘Bigotry relates to hatred in the same way that’¦’ and insert each of the choices at the end like ‘equality relates to government’, etc’. You can change how you word the sentence to whichever relationship is between the words.

5. Sometimes it is difficult to identify the relationship by just looking at the analogy in the order it is represented, so switch the words and try to find a relationship that way. Therefore, instead of considering how ‘bigotry’ relates to ‘hatred’ try and see how ‘hatred’ relates to ‘bigotry’. If you are still stuck you can start finding relationships between the first and second word of the given analogy and the first and second word in the choices, respectively, of course. Compare all of the first words to the original first word, and the second with the second word.

6. As with all types of tests, you can make an educated guess when all other strategies have failed. Follow your hunches, choose a letter that you have not chosen in a while, or maybe just mark the most complex relationship you see in the choices, if you are crunched for time.

More detailed overview of Verbal Analogies

See also our  The Ultimate Guide to Test Preparation


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Modified: November 6th, 2018 November 6th, 2018
Published: February 27th, 2008

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