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5 Most Difficult MAT Questions

I hate to burst your bubble, but this post does not give you the insider trading secrets of the 5 most difficult MAT questions on the exam. Why? Because what is most difficult for you is actually quite personal. As you begin your study regimen, you’ll start to realize which types of questions are most difficult for you and then you can focus your efforts. Even so, here are some examples of what could be trickier MAT questions.

Word meaning and etymologies

There’s no getting around the fact that the MAT is word-heavy. Some of the words and the concepts they represent are simple, some deceptively so, and some delve into esoteric knowledge. Knowledge of current and historic meanings is important. You can find an in-depth discussion of this in this post about etymology.

For example:
Sinanthropus : Pithecanthropus :: (Peking) : Java

This is an example of needing to know the root words and prefixes. Anthropus indicates that both terms refer to humans and you can use your knowledge of prefixes such as sino- (Chinese) and that Peking was a city in China.


We have had quite a few blog posts on vocabulary. Again, not surprising, given the nature of the exam. Rather than slogging through a series of practice analogies that seem meaningless if you don’t know, take some time to focus on learning broad-spectrum vocabulary words. Take a look at this post about vocabulary to get tips on learning new words.

For example:
Napoleon : Pergola :: (Baker) : Carpenter

This is an example of alternate meanings. Napoleon was a French general but it is also a type of baked good.


Association analogies are the largest group represented on the exam. This means that they will be easy to recognize but don’t get overconfident and blow them off. You can take a look at this post on the analogy subcategory of associations.

For example:
Parrot : (Beak) :: Imaginary : Fable

This analogy shows that one term is a characteristic of the other.


(shudder) We come to my personal challenge–math questions on the MAT. We have several excellent blog posts breaking down analogies that represent mathematical or numerical relationships that I wish I’d had before I took my test.

For example:
4 : 64 :: 5 : (125)

This example uses exponential powers to indicate the relationship. 4 cubed is 64 and 5 cubed is 125.


OK, this is not an actual question subcategory on the test. But it is a way of thinking about difficult questions that may ease your way through difficult questions. Since we know there are 20 experimental questions on the MAT, try to think that the one or two unsolvable or incomprehensible questions that trip you up are experimental. That way you don’t spend too much time on one question. Take a look at this post on experimental questions for more ideas.

I may have not given you the inside scoop on individual analogies but you now have advice to target your 5 most difficult MAT questions. As you study, work on identifying the relationships and focus on the areas most difficult for you to create for yourself a personalized, targeted study experience.

About Lisa

I am a professional Book Geek, a.k.a. librarian, and love to both learn and educate. Serving students of all ages and all stages--I live for the “Ah Ha!” moment. I am a reference librarian at the Alamogordo Public Library and am ready to answer questions at a moment’s notice; never be afraid to ask! Remember: when all else fails, go to the library!

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