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MAT Analogy Subcategories: Semantic Analogies

Analogies on the MAT can be categorized based on the type of relationship used to form the analogy. The four main categories are: Semantic, Classification, Association, and Logical/Mathematical. Each of these breakdown into further subcategories (MAT Study Guide). Knowing the types of analogies you will encounter on the MAT increases your ability to solve the question. In situations where you see several possible relationships, being able to define the relationship can help you pick the best answer. Further, when you feel stuck, thinking about the various relationships can help you spot a connection. Starting with semantic analogies, we will go one by one through the MAT analogy subcategories.

Semantic analogies

Semantic analogies explicitly deal with the definition of the terms involved. This is the “definition” that you would find if you looked up the word in a standard dictionary. A semantic relationship is based on what the terms mean. This is not only one of the most straightforward relationship categories but also one of the most common on the MAT: 28 to 31 percent of MAT questions will use this relationship.

Subcategory 1: Synonym or Definition

Terms of this type are related because they have the same meaning.

Attack : Assault      Both words mean to initiate violence upon someone or something.

Vertex : Corner       Both words refer to the point where two lines meet.

As an MAT question:

Vertex : Corner :: (a. hypotenuse b. vertices c. flood d. pluvial) : Deluge

Realizing that “vertex” and “corner” are synonymous, we would look for a word that is similarly synonymous with “deluge” which leads us to answer choice C.

Subcategory 2: Antonym or Contrast

This relationship is simply the opposite of the previous; here the terms will have opposing meanings.

Praise : Castigate      To praise is to give approval; to castigate is to reprimand.

Nadir : Acme              The nadir is the lowest point; the acme is the highest.

As an MAT question:

Nadir : Acme :: Parsimony : ( a. zenith b. largess c. bottom d. exalted)

Notice that several of the answer choices relate to either “nadir” or “acme”: zenith (high point), bottom (low point), exalted (elevated in rank). However, none of them would complete the analogy. This is why it is important to recognize the relationship before you refer to the answer choices (see our blog on the “best ways to figure out the relationships in MAT analogies”).

Nadir is the opposite of Acme. This sentence represents our bridge. We need to match this relationship to complete the analogy. Parsimony, which means excessively frugal, is the opposite of largess. This is the best answer choice since it will create a matching relationship:

Nadir is the opposite of Acme.

Parsimony is the opposite of Largess.

Or as an analogy,

Nadir is the opposite of Acme just as Parsimony is the opposite of Largess.

Both bridges match, and this completes the analogy.

Subcategory 3: Intensity

One term represents a greater degree of size or intensity than the other.

Breeze : Squall A breeze is a gentle wind; a squall is a violent, windy storm.

Criticize : Denounce To criticize is to find fault; to denounce is to condemn.

In everyday speech, we might consider the above examples to be synonyms. However, this would be a mistake on the MAT. “Synonyms” on the MAT are terms that are equal, or near-equal, in their effect, size, intensity, etc. We need to distinguish between terms that should be treated as synonymous versus those we should treat as similar but of different intensities.

Criticize : Denounce :: Jog : (a. run b. rebuke c. sprint d. accuse)

If you quickly label “criticize” and “denounce” as synonyms, you will have a very hard time choosing between “sprint” and “run” to complete this analogy. When you see similar terms, you should consider whether they are related because they are synonyms (i.e. equivalent) or because they represent a similar idea but at different intensity levels.

“Denounce” is a much more intense form of “criticize.” Our bridge should represent this:

To denounce is to criticize intensely.

Using our bridge, we can plug in the third term—

To ________ is to jog intensely.

(Note: since I reversed the position of “denounce” and “ criticize,” I did the same with “jog.”)

“Sprint,” unlike “run,” refers only to full effort motion and is thus the best answer—

To sprint is to jog intensely.

To clarify, “run” does not work because it has such a broad definition: it can refer to slow, moderate, or quick paces. “Sprint” is more specific.

Be cautious when you see terms that could be synonymous.

Subcategory 4: Wordpart/Meaning

One term explains what the other means.

Kilo- : 1000 Kilo is a prefix that means 1000 (e.g. kilogram)

Sub- : Below Sub is a word root meaning below (e.g. substandard)

As an MAT question:

Sub- : Below :: Centi- : (a. insect b. hundred c. years d. hundredth)

“Centi” is a prefix that means hundredth (e.g. centimeters). Answer choice D is the correct answer then.

The Wordpart/Meaning subcategory is not very different from the synonym or antonym subcategories. The key difference is that it tends to use prefixes, suffixes, or word roots.

Knowing the subcategories allows you to better define the relationships within MAT questions which increases your chances of selecting the right answer. It also gives you some angles of attack when a question seems difficult to answer; you can look at a question in the context of various subcategories and see if any seem to fit.

Be sure to also check out the official MAT study guide

About Bertrand

Bertrand is a remote tutor and a MAT blogger for Magoosh. He received a B.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University and studied education theory at Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He has been studying and working in education since 2010. Born and raised in New Jersey, he now resides in Philadelphia. When he isn’t helping students study or writing blogs for Magoosh, he spends his time practicing mixed martial arts and reading as much as his schedule permits.

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