Association analogies are the quintessential analogy. The other analogies mostly require increases in your knowledge; to prep for association analogies requires a deep familiarity with analogical thinking.
Association analogies are much more similar to the type of analogical thinking you see in writing. For example, “The dawn of a new empire.” Strictly speaking, “empires” don’t “dawn.” But an inherent idea in “dawn” is the “beginning of the day” and this can be carried over to mean the “beginning” of anything, including an “empire.”
If you have familiarized yourself with the other analogy groups–semantic, logical/mathematical, classification–you’ll see that this type of analogy (association) really does not fit into those neat categories. For this reason, I think of association analogies as the “catch-all” group. Any analogy that would not fit in the other categories is going to fall under association.
Association Analogy Structure
If you know the terms in an analogy but the relationship is not immediately apparent to you, there’s a good chance that the connection is more abstract and, therefore, more likely to be an association analogy. This is the one category where you should absolutely memorize all the sub-types (though it wouldn’t hurt to do it for others).
Association has the most sub-types of any group; you can see them here in the Official MAT Study guide (pg. 7-9). These should be memorized to the point of instant recall.
If you suspect an analogy has a more abstract relationship, being able to cycle through the sub-types, mentally, gives you an edge in seeing the connection. Conversely, if you don’t know the sub-types, then certain analogies may seem completely unsolvable.
Benefits of Practice
A high volume of practice questions is one of the best ways to improve in association analogies. You are going to have to go through hundreds of these questions in an effort to hone your ability to recognize the many ways terms can be related.
You can get some free exposure with the Magoosh MAT flashcard app, but you will eventually need practice tests from a resource like Kaplan or Barron’s MAT guides if you are going to reach the volume you need.
Write Your Own
Because so much relies on your knowledge of the sub-types and your ability to think analogically, I highly recommend sitting down and writing your own MAT style analogies.
Look at the MAT official study guide (linked above) and try to generate your own analogies for each sub-type. Not only will this help you memorize the sub-types, but it is also an effective way of getting used to looking for these connections. Don’t write MAT questions; write completed analogies. For example:
Sub-type — Agent/object (term represents the function of the other)
Agent/object example — Knife : Cut :: Barricade : Obstruct (function of knife is to cut, function of barricade is to obstruct)
After a hundred or so of these, you’ll have association mastered. 🙂