'A to Z' of Verbal Analogies

Analogy questions are frequently asked in various competitive exams. The importance of the concept is reinforced by the fact that it accounts for at least 3-4 questions year after year.
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What are Verbal Analogies?
In general, an analogy is a similarity that is drawn between two different, but sufficiently similar events, situations, or circumstances. A verbal analogy draws a similarity between one pair of words and another pair of words.
How to Improve Score in Verbal Analogies?
  • Strong vocabulary: One of the important factors is a good vocabulary. Besides dictionary or primary meanings of the word, you also need to know the secondary meanings of the words. Secondary meaning of any word is the meaning of the word other than its dictionary meaning. For example: 'school of fish' also means 'group of fish'.
  • Ability to decode the relationship between the words in the question: With the help of strong vocabulary and enough practice, you can solve analogy based questions with great ease. You should also be aware of a few important types of relationships to understand the questions better.
Different types of relationship between the words:
There are many kinds of relationship which the question pair of words displays. If we are able to decode the relationship between words, we will look to find out the pair of words among the options where the first word is a tool for the second. Thus, reaching the correct answer becomes easier. 

Types of analogies based on meanings of the words

  • Dictionary/primary meaning based
  • Secondary meaning based
List of Analogies:
  • P is a defining characteristic of Q. Example: COURAGE : HERO (COURAGE is a defining characteristic of a HERO).   
  • Lack of P is a defining characteristic of Q. Example: HOPE: PESSIMISM (Lack of HOPE is a defining characteristic of PESSIMISM).
  • X is a type of Y. Example: ANGER: EMOTION (ANGER is a type of EMOTION.) ORANGE: FRUIT (An ORANGE is a type of FRUIT).
  • X is a part of Y. Example: LETTER : ALPHABET (A LETTER is a part of an ALPHABET).   
  • X is the place for Y. Example: CLINIC : NURSE (A CLINIC is the place for a NURSE).   
  • Relationship of Degree. Example: MOUNTAIN: HILL (A MOUNTAIN is a large HILL).
  • Tools used by professionals- Some analogies are based upon the connection between a person and the tool that person uses or upon a tool and the result that it achieves. Example: SCALPEL: SURGEON (A SCALPEL is the tool of a SURGEON).
  • X is a sign of Y. Example: TREMBLING : FEARTREMBLING is a sign of FEAR.   
  • Sequence- In this type of connection, one event follows another, either as a matter of logic or sequence, or as an effect follows its cause. We also include in this category analogies in which one event prevents or interrupts another. Example: ENGAGEMENT: MARRIAGE (An ENGAGEMENT comes before a MARRIAGE.)
  • X is a spurious form of Y. In this type of analogy, one idea is a spurious or defective form of the other. Example: BRAVADO: BRAVERY (BRAVADO is spurious (or false) BRAVERY).
Verbal Analogies Questions:
Example 1: Errata : Books : : Flaws : ?
A. Manuscripts
B. Metals
C. Speech
D. Charter
Solution: First identify the relation between the given pair. Here, errata is a list of mistakes attached at the end of a book, after the book is published i.e. mistakes left in the finished product. Similarly 'flaws' also means 'mistakes' and mistakes can be in manuscripts, speech and charter also. But we cannot have three correct options. So the question is based on secondary meaning of the words instead of primary meaning of the given words. 'Flaws' also means 'impurities' left in the metal after it is purified. Now this is the perfect analogy. Hence the answer is 'flaws : metals' i.e. option D. Errata is MISTAKES left after the book is published and 'flaws' are the impurities left in the metal after it is purified.
Example 2: TRIAL : JURY :: ?
  • dispute : arbiter
  • poll : contestant
  • championship : spectator
  • conference : speaker
Solution: As 'jury' settles the 'trial' similarly the job of the arbiter is to settle the 'dispute'. Hence the answer is option A.
Example 3: IMPLAUSIBLE : ABSURD :: ?
  • shadowy : illurninated
  • flamboyant : public
  • surprising : shocking
  • superfluous : truncated
Solution: First try to figure out the relationship between the two words in the question pair. Now the words 'implausible' and 'absurd' have almost the same meaning but the usage or polarity is exactly opposite. While 'implausible' is used in positive sense, 'absurd' is used in negative sense. Both have meaning used in the sense of 'unbelievable'. Similarly the option C shows the same relationship. The words 'surprising' and 'shocking' means the same but usage wise both are used in opposite sense(positive and negative respectively).
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Analogies: Key learning
  • The order of the answer pair should be same as question pair. For example: if in question pair the order is in the form of CAUSE: EFFECT, then answer pair should also have the same order i.e. the answer should also be in the form of CAUSE: EFFECT.
  • There should not be any kind of ambiguity between the strength and logic of the words. For example: if two given words are synonym of each other then the answer pair should definitely be synonym of each other. In other words there should not be 'may or may not' case.
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