Military Officer Candidate Test: Understanding the Exam's Analogy Questions

The verbal and reading section of an officer candidate exam may test your knowledge of analogies. An analogy is a comparison of two proportions or relations. In standard usage — and for many of the military exams — you will encounter several types of analogies.

Why are analogies important? Understanding analogies exhibits your ability to recognize relationships between words. It helps you develop a more complete ability to use words, images, and expressions, both in your spoken words and in your writing. As a future officer in the military, it's important for you to be articulate, now and when you are commanding others.

Each question presents two words that have some type of relationship; you are asked to select the choice that best completes the analogy, which is similar to the relationship presented in the original pair of words. There are two formats for the questions. For example, look at the following:

                         FORK is to EAT as PEN is to

         A.            INK

         B.            PENCIL

         C.            WRITE

         D.            LETTER

         E.            BOOK

You first must ask yourself what the relationship is between FORK and EAT. A fork is used to eat. Thus, the next pair demonstrates a similar relationship — a PEN is used to WRITE. The correct answer is C.

The second format of analogy questions that you will encounter is as follows:

                         PREMIER is to COUNTRY as

         A.            TEACHER is to LEARNING

         B.            PRINCIPAL is to SCHOOL

         C.            PRESIDENT is to CABINET

         D.            SOLDIER is to SAILOR

         E.            POLICEMAN is to CRIME

The correct answer is B, PRINCIPAL is to SCHOOL. The PREMIER is the leader of the COUNTRY, and the PRINCIPAL is the leader of the SCHOOL. If you look at the other choices, you can see the differences in relationships when compared to the original pair. The teacher's job is to help the students learn, and he or she is surely in charge of students, but that is not the direct relationship. The president chooses the Cabinet, but the Cabinet is only a small part of the country. Soldier to Sailor and Policeman to Crime are different relationships entirely.

Keep in mind that the relationship between the words is the most important aspect when answering an analogy question. It is more important than the actual meanings of the words. Try to establish the relationship immediately as you read the question. How are the two words related? Are they the same? Are they part of a group? Are they antonyms? It is often helpful to paraphrase the relationship.

For example, you might encounter the following:

                         FISH is to OCEAN as HORSE is to

         A.            OATS

         B.            RACETRACK

         C.            STABLE

         D.            GALLOP

         E.            FIELD

You would paraphrase this by saying, "A FISH lives in the OCEAN; therefore, a HORSE lives in the STABLE." The correct answer is C. Although some horses may live in the field, city horses may live only in a stable. (Questions usually require you to be fairly specific.) By paraphrasing the original pair, you help yourself in identifying the correct answer.