Analogy Relationships

Analogies are a staple of many standardized tests. Students can develop their ability to solve and even create analogies once they realize that they are all based on the building of vocabulary and the relationship among terms


Analogy Relationships

Analogies are a staple of standardized tests. The PSAT, ACT, GRE, TOEFL exam, SSAT, and FCAT, to name a few, contain significant analogy sections on the tests. The analogy questions measure reasoning ability, vocabulary skills, and familiarity with the analogy format. Keep reading to better understand the basics of how analogy questions are structured.

An analogy question asks students to select the answer that best mirrors the relationship between the two words in the question. As a simple example, the question might start with: "Hot is to cold." The reader should note that hot is the exact opposite of cold and look for a pair of words in the answer choices where the words are also opposites. Here is a complete analogy example question:

Hot is to cold as:

a. Fat is to obese

b. Inside is to outside

c. Parent is to mother

d. Tepid is to warming

The reader should see that inside is to outside is the only pair of opposites and select it as the correct response.

Analogies are revealing test questions causing the reader to hypothesize the relationship between the example words and then finding the best match for that analogy. Common types of analogies used on standardized tests with examples:

  • Opposites or antonyms
  • Synonyms or words with identical or similar meetings
  • Near synonyms with variations by degree: ice cube is to iceberg as rain is to downpour
  • Action is to result: punch is to cry as tickle is to laugh
  • Part to whole: nose is to face as nail is finger
  • Uses: fork is to eat as telephone is to talk
  • Places: earth is to solar system as California is to the USA
  • Users: resident is to apartment as a golfer is to clubs
  • Measurement: ruler is to distance as barometer is to pressure
  • Product to Producer: milk is to cow as wool is to sheep
  • Degree of intensity: drizzle is to deluge as sniffles is to pneumonia


Analogy questions are not riddles or puzzles in the sense that the "field of play" is the meaning of words. Some students think to look outside the meaning of words. As far as I know, none of the standardized tests will base analogies on alliteration.


Desk is to door as

a. wall is to wind

b. window is to chair

c. book is to read

d. dwarf is to decade.


A student, unfamiliar with these types of questions, might reason like this: "Desk and door both start with the letter D and have four letters. So, wind and wall are four lettered words that start with the same letter. I'll pick it." Directions, on the test, should state: "Find the answer choice that best matches relationship between the meanings of the two primary words."


The key to students successfully completing an analogy is for them to first realize they need to link their familiar experiences with these new ideas that are presented to them. Once they have used the already learned concept, they can apply this same concept to the other word pairs. This helps them develop higher level thinking processes.


When students understand that analogies are all based upon relationships, they can work on overcoming analogy apprehension and even develop their own analogies.


Students also need to build their vocabulary base to have a better understanding words introduced in analogous relationships. The SAT Game and MatchIt on this site can help them in just that area. Coming soon, look for a new analogy game.