Analogy Step Method
Analogy Step Method
Here’s our step method to solve Analogies. If you don’t know the meanings of the words in the original pair, don’t worry: Later we provide tips for how to deal with questions containing unfamiliar vocabulary. For now, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Connect the Dots.
Step 2: Create a Template.
Step 3: Make the Match.
Step 4 (if necessary): Narrow the Connection.
Let’s take a closer look at each step.
Step 1: Connect the Dots. The first step is to seek out the link between the words in the original pair. We demonstrated this for the eight major Analogy categories discussed in the previous section, and you should seek out similar kinds of links no matter what form the relationship between the words takes. Remember, there will always be a strong and defined connection in the question stem’s original pair, and it’s your job to recognize it.
Step 2: Create a Template. As we demonstrated earlier, the form of the original relationship is the important thing, so it’s helpful to represent the connection you deduced in Step 1 as sentences substituting Xs and Ys for the words in the original pair.
Step 3: Make the Match. Now plug the choices into your template to see which one forms a logical relationship that mirrors the relationship of the words in the original. Be careful to substitute words in the proper order. For example, if your template goes from the second word back to the first (such as “Y is an extreme form of X”), then make sure to read the choices into your template in that order as well. You can save time by immediately chopping choices containing weak links, as you learned to do in the fundamentals section above.
If you know the words in the original pair and you use this method, you should have your answer by the end of Step 3. However, it’s unrealistic to expect this blue-sky scenario to play out for every question you face, so we’ve provided an additional step to use if you get stuck.
Step 4 (if necessary): Narrow the Connection. If you know the words in the original pair and perform steps 1–3, yet more than one choice still seems workable, it is possible that the connection you formed in Step 1 and generalized in Step 2 is too broad, causing more than one choice to fit its parameters. That’s a clear sign that you didn’t go far enough, so narrow the connection to weed out the imposters. We’ll demonstrate how to do this in the following section, but first we’ll employ the method in its most straightforward form.
Guided Practice
Let’s test-drive the steps on a practice Analogy question. We’ll consider this one a best-case scenario in which you know the meanings of the words, which means we’ll have our answer by the end of Step 3. You’ll recognize the following question as our X-ray example from earlier in the chapter. Try it now using Steps 1–3 of our method.
(A) straightforward : pithy
(B) urgent : imperative
(C) harsh : bright
(D) exotic : commonplace
(E) cheap : devoted
Step 1: Connect the Dots. How would you explain the meaning of implicit in terms of the word stated? Implicit means “implied” or “unspoken,” so the original words are opposites, illustrated by the connection sentence “something implicit is never stated.” This sentence captures the essential relationship between the words in the original pair and tells us we’re dealing with a Meaning analogy.
Step 2: Create a Template. Generalizing from the connection sentence above yields “something X is never Y.”
Step 3: Make the Match. We can go out on a limb to forge a link between harsh and bright, and between cheap and devoted, but our “Weak Links” fundamental reminds us that going out on a limb is not what GRE Analogy questions are all about. So let’s chop C and E right off the bat. Straightforward and pithy aren’t too closely related, but you may have found them close enough to test against our template: Something straightforward is never pithy (“brief”)? Nope, that doesn’t make sense. Something straightforward is more likely to be pithy than lengthy, but the connection is too vague in any case to pass GRE muster, so eliminate A. B serves up a pair of words that are closer to synonyms than antonyms, since something urgent can be said to be imperative. D is left, and it fits our template perfectly: Something exotic is never commonplace.
At this point you would click D and move on to the next question. If you know the meanings of the words in the original, and have no problem finding the match, then steps 1–3 are all you’ll need. However, as mentioned above, sometimes you’ll understand the original pair yet still be left with more than one choice standing at the end of Step 3. That’s where Step 4 comes into play. We’ll give you an example:
(A) soldier : fortress
(B) foot : boot
(C) turtle : shell
(D) memory : calculation
(E) clay : pottery
Step 1: Connect the Dots. The original fits into the Function category, as the purpose of the skull is to protect the brain.
Step 2: Create a Template. It’s reasonable to generalize the connection from Step 1 as “the purpose of Y is to protect X.”
Step 3: Make the Match. Scanning the choices, we can get rid of D on Weak Link grounds since we’d have to struggle to form a solid link between memory and calculation: Maybe someone with a good memory doesn’t need to make calculations? Maybe someone with a good memory remembers how to make complex calculations? Who knows? Who cares? Just toss. But the others seem reasonable enough to test. A fortress protects a soldier, so A’s looking good. Uh-oh: A boot can be said to protect a foot, and a shell does protect a turtle, so we’ve got three answers that potentially fit. At least E is out: clay can be used to make pottery, but no one would say that pottery protects clay. But with A, B, and C still in the running, we’ll have to move on to Step 4.
Step 4: Narrow the Connection. We need to make our connection more specific. What kind of protection does the skull afford the brain? Natural, biological protection—and that’s enough to propel C into the winner’s circle. When faced with more than one choice that fits your template, making the connection more specific will help the correct choice stand out.
If Step 4 still doesn’t get you all the way home, then you’ll need to take an educated guess. The following section contains tips that will help you narrow down the choices even when you don’t know all of the words in a question.
Tame the Tough Stuff
Just as we presented ways to bluff your way closer to right answers in difficult Antonym questions, we’ll now teach you ways to outmaneuver Analogy questions containing words you’ve never heard of. The goal is to eliminate as many choices as possible to put the odds in your favor so you can take your best guess.
We’ve already covered one good elimination strategy when we taught you to chop choices with Weak Links, a strategy that applies across the board whether you’re having trouble with vocabulary or not. Two other helpful techniques are:
  1. Work Backward
  2. Follow the Charge
Work Backward
Let's say you got this difficult analogy and you didn't know the word paean:
(A) music : tempo
(B) jeopardy : knoll
(C) sorrow : dirge
(D) water : peninsula
(E) dregs : society
We can’t effectively connect the dots between words if we don’t know one of them, but we can work backward from the answer choices to create a connection for each of those, seeing if a viable relationship reveals itself in the process. What we mean by “viable relationship” is a link that could possibly apply to the original pair, even though we don’t know one of those words. This is doable because we do know what joy means, and there are only so many reasonable ways we can link the concept of joy to another word.
Here’s how it works: For A, tempo is the speed of music. Does it seem likely that paean (or any word) could mean “the speed of joy?” Not likely—the GRE test makers aren’t particularly poetic, so eliminate A. No GRE-worthy connection exists for B, so we can chop this choice for containing a weak link. In C, dirge is a difficult word. If you’re not sure what it means, it’s dangerous to eliminate it, so we’ll keep C for now. In D, a peninsula is surrounded on three sides by water. Is it likely that a paean is surrounded on three sides by joy? Not really, so eliminate D. Finally, dregs are the bottom of society. Could joy be the bottom of anything? Doubtful, so let’s get rid of E. That leaves C. C is the best guess, even if one of its words is a complete mystery. If you knew the meaning of paean, you could have created the connection, “A paean is a song of joy.” Similarly, “A dirge is a song of sorrow,” which confirms that C is in fact correct. Working backward, you could have arrived at C even without knowing a word in both the original and the correct choice. At the very least, you could have narrowed the choices down to increase your odds if you had to guess.
Another way to work backward is to notice when two choices contain pairs of words whose relationships are functionally identical. For example, if one choice contains a pair of words that are synonyms, and another choice does as well, then neither can be the answer since there would be no way to select one over the other. Then, even if you didn’t know one or both words in the original pair, at least you’d know they can’t be synonyms, and you’d also be able to narrow the choices down. You’ll see an example of this strategy at work in the practice set at the end of the chapter.
Follow the Charge
We discussed word charge in the Antonyms chapter and reiterated this strategy earlier in our discussion of Meaning analogies where we defined connotation as “the general aura surrounding a word or concept.” We can think of these auras as positive and negative charges that can help you get a feel for words even if you don’t know their precise meanings. This feeling can lead you in the right direction and put you in a better position if you have to venture a guess. Let’s look at an example.
(A) paleontology : dinosaur
(B) malingerer : bureaucrat
(C) anxiety : panic
(D) anathema : intelligentsia
(E) dissonance : harmony
Though malediction is a tough word, you may still know that it means something negative because the prefix mal in front of a word means “bad” or “badly.” You can also think of words beginning with mal that you do know— malfunction, malnourished, and so on—to help you recognize the negative aura surrounding malediction. Blessing, on the other hand, is clearly positive, so the stem words have opposite charges. That means that the words in the correct match will also be opposite in charge. Let’s test them out with that in mind.
The words in A are pretty neutral, so cut. In B, malingerer has the same negative charge as malediction, but bureaucrat is not really strongly positive or negative. Notice also that the first word in B contains the same prefix as malediction in the original, a possible trap. C has two negative words, so it’s out. This leaves D and E, and if you got it down to these two choices by following the word charges, that’s a victory—you’d have a fifty-fifty chance of getting the point even though you weren’t sure of all the words. The correct answer, by the way, is E: Dissonance (“disagreement,” “conflict,” or “a harsh sound”) is never in harmony, just as a malediction (“curse”) is never a blessing.
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