What is a verbal reasoning analogy question?

Verbal reasoning tests are designed to assess a candidate’s ability to comprehend and make deductions from written text. Within these tests, analogy questions will be encountered.

Analogy questions test your ability to identify relationships between pairs (and sometimes sets) of words or ideas. The questions can involve a number of different word and concept connections, but the question structure remains similar.

Generally, analogy questions will offer up two words (representing items or concepts) with a certain relationship as an example pairing. The first task will be to identify the relationship embodied by the example. The second task will be to match a third word to its corresponding partner within a set of multiple-choice answers.

10 types of word connections used in analogy tests

Below is a list of the most commonly encountered word relationships used in verbal reasoning analogy questions, and a brief description of each:

1) Antonyms

Questions involving antonyms feature words that have opposite meanings. Candidates will be expected to recognise this relationship and identify the relevant opposing word from the choice selections.

2) Synonyms

Synonym questions involve word pairings in which the expressions have similar meanings.

3) Cause and effect

Cause and effect questions feature terms that form a causal relationship. Candidates may be tasked with identifying a cause or an effect from the multiple-choice list, and the association may not be presented linearly.

4) Degree of intensity

In these questions, the correct word pairing involves two terms that are equivalent to each other but differ in terms of the intensity attached to the expression.

5) Item to category

Item to category questions involve the recognition of norms of categorisation. Candidates will be presented with an example indicating an item-category relationship and then asked to identify the relevant category for an item, or the item which falls into the stated category.

6) Descriptive connection

In descriptive connection questions, one of the words in the pair describes the other. Candidates may be asked to identify the descriptor or the object/concept from the multiple-choice list.

7) Processes

Some questions involve words that are connected as they represent steps in the same process. Candidates may need to highlight the word that represents a previous or subsequent stage.

8) Functions

Function relationship questions involve pairing words according to item and function described. The item that performs a certain function may need to be identified, or the function that an item performs.

9) Symbols and representation

Symbol questions contain words that reference commonly known symbols. Candidates will need to match the symbol to the correct word of representation, or the embodiment to the symbol, to create a pairing.

10) Implied relationships

Some analogy questions will allude to a certain type of relationship between terms. Candidates are required to identify the nature of the relationship and create another word pairing within the same template.

analogy questions verbal reasoning

Example Analogy Questions

1) Antonyms

attack – defend timid – ___ a) quiet b) bold c) fight d) shy

When approaching the question, ask yourself what the relationship is between the given pair. ‘Attack’ is to ‘defend’ as ‘timid’ is to….?

Considering the different types of word connections used in analogy questions, we can recognise that the words ‘attack’ and ‘defend’ are antonyms. A word describing the opposite of ‘timid’ is ‘bold’, therefore option B forms the correct pairing.

2) Synonyms

hungry – ravenous poor – ___ a) rich b) disenfranchised c) destitute d) homeless

The multiple-choice list contains some purposefully distracting terms that relate to the word in question (‘poor’). Option A (‘rich’) is an antonym. Options B and D are possible effects or impacts.

To decipher which connection is most appropriate, look again at the example pairing. The word ‘ravenous’ is a synonym of ‘hungry’, therefore the correct answer to the question is option C, ‘destitute’.

3) Cause and effect

authoritarian – oppression freedom – ___ a) voice b) liberty c) leadership d) democratic

When answering the questions, note that the connection logic may need to be implied in the inverse in order to match the unattached word to its counterpart.

From the example pairing, ‘authoritarian’ can be identified as a cause, and ‘oppression’ as a potential effect. The unattached word, ‘freedom’, is an effect, so the correct answer will represent a cause. The correct answer is option D, ‘democratic’.

4) Degree of intensity

irritated – incensed careful – ___ a) meticulous b) organised c) enraged d) cautious

In analogy questions, it is common for all multiple-choice options to relate to the words in the question (whether to the lone word or example pair). This is intended to create confusion, so read through all potential answers carefully.

For this question, it may be tempting to select option D (‘cautious’) as this is a synonym for ‘careful’. Looking at the example pair, however, we can identify that ‘incensed’ is not simply a straight synonym for ‘irritated’ – the intensity of the feeling has been increased.

This logic applied to the unresolved pairing means that the correct answer is option A, ‘meticulous’.

5) Item to category

tomato – fruit sorghum – ___ a) wheat b) plant c) grain d) vegetable

Note once again the potential suitability of all the answer options. From analysing the relationship between the example words, we can see that a ‘tomato’ is a ‘fruit’. Sorghum is, therefore, a ‘grain’.

While option B (‘plant’) is also correct in theory, the example pairing displays a more detailed level of categorisation. Option A (‘wheat’) describes a fellow grain, whilst option D (‘vegetable’) is intended to mislead, playing upon the urge for the mental pairing of ‘fruit’ and ‘vegetable’.

6) Descriptive connection

ocean – salty sharp – ___ a) blood b) knife c) cut d) bandage

‘Ocean’ is to ‘salty’ as ‘sharp’ is to…? ‘Salty’ is an adjective that can be used to describe the ‘ocean’. For the second pairing, we already have our adjective, ‘sharp’. The correct answer is therefore option B, ‘knife’, as a knife can be described as ‘sharp’.

The other options, although related, describe causes, effects and functions – so do not create the correct pairing.

7) Processes

fossilisation – fossils sand – ___ a) beach b) erosion c) heat d) geology

From the example pairing, this question can be identified as relating to processes. Fossils are formed through the ‘fossilisation’ process, just as ‘sand’ is created through the process of ‘erosion’. The correct answer is therefore option B, ‘erosion’.

8) Functions

spatula – flip stir – ___ a) whisk b) awaken c) spoon d) bowl

Option A (‘whisk’) is a synonym for the lone word ‘stir’. Option B (‘awaken’) is also a synonym, but of the word in a different context to that set by the example pairing. Option D (‘bowl’) relates to the context but is a level removed from the relationship sought.

Stirring can occur within a bowl but, in the example given, ‘flip’ is paired with ‘spatula’ and not with ‘pan’. Just as you use a ‘spatula’ to ‘flip’, you would use option C, a ‘spoon’, to ‘stir’.

9) Symbols and representation

dove – peace lion – ___ a) fierce b) cat c) courage d) symbol

The example pairing contains reference to an animal, a ‘dove’, which is also known as a symbol of ‘peace’. The second pairing also contains an animal, this time a ‘lion’. As the given pairing relates to symbolic representation and does not describe behaviour or categorisation, the correct answer is option C, ‘courage’.

10) Implied relationships

teller – bank server – ­­­___ a) web b) restaurant c) work d) food

Whilst being a ‘server’ is a form of ‘work’, servers carry ‘food’, and a ‘web’ server hosts data, only one answer option relates to ‘server’ in the same manner as ‘teller’ connects to ‘bank’. The correct answer is option B, as a ‘teller’ works in a ‘bank’, and a ‘server’ works in a ‘restaurant’.

Tips for answering analogy questions

Widen your vocabulary

If candidates encounter words they do not know the meaning of within pairings, deciphering the logic connection becomes trickier and the questions become difficult to answer with any degree of certainty.

The ability to answer analogy questions can be improved by a widening of vocabulary, particularly relating to synonyms and antonyms of words.

Accustom yourself to the question styles

There are ten types of word connections commonly employed in analogy questions. To answer the questions posed rapidly and accurately, have a good level of familiarity with all of the connection types.

If you’re weak in a particular area, such as recognising and differentiating synonyms and degree of intensity questions, spend some dedicated time to these question styles.

Use an elimination technique to determine the logic in the question

When approaching analogy questions, use an elimination technique to determine the relationship between the example pair. Keep all ten possible word connections in mind as you approach each question, mentally working through them until settling upon the relationship that fits best.

This elimination approach helps to prevent candidates from jumping to conclusions around the question logic.

Apply the logic of the example pair to check all answer options

When working through the answer options, approach them by seeking to eliminate the answers that do not create a mirrored pair. This will ensure careful consideration of each option, using the logic of the example pair to eliminate the least probable answers until the correct one remains.

Candidates often fall into the trap of selecting the first answer they see that appears to fit, instead of reading and testing all the choices.

Think about how the questions fit into the rest of the test

Verbal reasoning tests contain a variety of different question types, of which analogy questions are only one. The test will be timed, so it is useful to know whether analogy questions could help to make up time, or whether precious time saved elsewhere will need to be dedicated to them.

Practise analogy questions as part of wider verbal reasoning preparation to ensure a high test score.