By Jen Rugani
Say a friend tells you a story about something that happened to her at work. Her boss has decided to assign her to a very specific research assignment, despite the fact that such research rarely yields practical results. Hearing this reminds you of something that recently happened to you: Your theater director cast you in a performance that was performed even though it was unlikely to draw an audience.
Are these situations identical? Nope! But they are analogous, because they share a few key structural and logical elements. On the GMAT, both Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions might ask you to identify a situation that is analogous to one presented in a prompt or passage. This requires you to look past the specific details of a situation and focus instead on its underlying logical aspects – things like changes, conflicts, cause-effect relationships, and patterns of reasoning.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Passage Situation: Ectothermic animals—those that cannot control their body temperatures except through external means—often have developed behavioral adaptations that seem counterintuitive. The Peninsular Rock Agama, an Indian lizard, must sit completely exposed on heated rocks for extended periods each morning to reverse the cooling experienced the previous night, flattening its body to the rock when predatory birds fly overhead.
Abstract Situation: An animal cannot maintain its body temperature internally, so it does so environmentally, even though this puts it in danger.
Underlying Aspects: A reliance on the outside environment is necessary, but dangerous.
Analogous Situation: A shopkeeper must publicly post his store’s prices in order to draw customers, although this enables larger stores to easily undercut those prices.
Notice that analogous does not mean identical – a shopkeeper doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a lizard. This makes analogous situation questions particularly difficult for test-takers, because at first glance, the correct answer might seem out of scope.
Don’t let the specific context of the situation throw you; focus on the structural and logical aspects of the passage or argument and find the answer choice that keeps those consistent. You’ll be an analogous situations expert in no time!