The SSAT: Analogies
Analogies may seem frightening because they look pretty weird at first glance. You’ll feel better about them as soon as you realize that you speak and think in analogies all the time. Anytime you say, “My sister is like a slug,” you’re drawing an analogy between your sister and slugs—perhaps your sister is as gross as a slug, or maybe she’s as slow as a slug getting out of bed in the morning. That may not be the kind of relationship that will appear on your test, but the thinking is the same.
Once you become familiar with their format, you’ll find that Analogy questions are pretty straightforward and very predictable. In fact, prepping often gains you more points on Analogies than on any other Verbal question type. With practice, you can learn to get them right even when you don’t know all of the vocabulary words involved.
The instructions will tell you to select the pair of words that is related in the same way as the two words in the beginning of the question. Those two words are called the stem words. SSAT Analogies test your ability to determine relationships between words. These relationships are called bridges. The SSAT tests certain specific relationships time and time again. These are called classic bridges.
Consider the following example:
Instrumentalist is to orchestra as singer is to chorus.
How are these things similar? How would you describe the relationship between the words in each pair?
One classic bridge is group: One word is a part or element of the other word. Try to use this classic bridge on a test like question.
In this example, the answer is (B). A flake is a small unit of snow, just as a drop is a small unit of rain.
Another classic bridge is characteristic: One word describes what the other word is, has, uses, causes, or does. Let’s look at an example of this:
Kite is to glide as raft is to float.
Let’s look at one final relationship using another example:
Novice is to experience as braggart is to modesty.
In this example, the classic bridge is lack: One word describes what the other word lacks, cannot be, or does not do.
On Test Day, you can find the correct answer by putting relationships, like these classic ones, in your own words. This crucial skill is the first step in the Kaplan 3-Step Method, which will help you handle Analogy questions, even the toughest ones. This way, you can approach every question systematically rather than just using instinct. Let’s see how it works.
The Kaplan 3-Step Method for Analogies
Six Classic Bridges
There are six classic bridges that appear on the SSAT over and over again. By getting to know these bridges, you’ll be able to identify them quickly, saving yourself a lot of time as you go through Analogy questions.
Bridge Type 1: CHARACTER
One word characterizes the other.
Quarrelsome is to argue (Someone quarrelsome tends to argue.)
Bridge Type 2: LACK
One word describes what someone or something is not.
Coward is to bravery (A coward lacks bravery.)
Bridge Type 3: FUNCTION
One word names an object; the other word defines its function.
Scissors is to cut (Scissors are used to cut.)
Bridge Type 4: DEGREE
One word is a greater or lesser degree of the other word.
Deafening is to loud (Something deafening is extremely loud.)
Bridge Type 5: EXAMPLE
One word is an example of the other word.
Measles is to disease (Measles is a type of disease.)
Bridge Type 6: GROUP
One word is made up of several of the other word.
Forest is to trees (A forest is made up of many trees.)
Predicting on Three-Term Analogies
Some Analogies will have three terms in the stem and only one word in each answer choice. For example:
Delight is to grin as dismay is to
Three-term Analogies aren’t very different from two-term Analogies. The key difference is that you need to predict your answer before you look at the answer choices. Otherwise, the choices won’t make much sense to you! Here’s how it works.
First, make your bridge:
A grin shows delight and a _____ shows dismay.
Now predict your answer. What might show dismay? Tears, perhaps, or a frown. Look at the answer choices. At this point, the question should be easier than a two-term Analogy, because you already have one of the two words in the answer.
Does a frown show dismay?
Does a smile show dismay?
Does a shrug show dismay?
Does a stare show dismay?
Does a giggle show dismay?
As you’ll see, (A) is the answer: A frown shows dismay. That makes a lot of sense. Can you see how much harder this would have been if you hadn’t gone through the steps of building a bridge and predicting the answer? You would likely be staring blankly at five words. Always predict your answer on three-term Analogies, and you’ll whiz through them in no time.
What is Backsolving? It may sound like an obscure form of chiropractic medicine, but it’s actually just a nifty way of approaching Analogies when you can’t answer them directly. So how does it work?
Basically, you skip right past the question stem and head straight for the answer choices. You may be wondering, “How can you figure out the answer without knowing what the question is asking?” Well, you can’t necessarily figure out the answer right away, but you can start to eliminate clearly wrong answer choices, leaving fewer options. When you rule out choices that you know can’t be right, the odds are better that you’ll pick the right choice from what’s left.
Even if you didn’t know that a screwdriver is a type of tool, what could you rule out? Well, in (A), there’s no logical connection between animal and plant, except that they’re both living things. Choice (B), garden is to bed, also sounds somewhat off. You could make the argument that a garden has a bed, but does it have to? What about a hanging garden or a rock garden? You could rule out (B) since it has a weak bridge.
By eliminating even one illogical answer choice, you’ll narrow down your choices and have a better chance of getting the question right. Always keep your eye out for Both Are traps and Weak Bridges as you work through the Analogy section, and you’ll rack up lots of points on even the toughest questions.
Now that you’ve learned some strategies for acing the analogy section of the SSAT, check out some analogy practice questions!