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I have two questions about this analogy from an SSAT practice test:

Silk is to worm as

A. honey is to bee

B. corn is to pop

C. bread is to wheat

D. egg is to chicken

E. frog is to croak

Their explanation is:

By now, you have seen several types of analogies involving objects or individuals and activities. There is the object-to-activity analogy (chisel is to carve), as well as the individual-to-activity analogy (tourist is to sightsee). The sequence presented here is another variation, this time involving insects. To answer this question correctly, you will need to know that worm and silk appear in the stem [I don't understand what that means] because silk is produced by a species of worm. Similarly, honey is produced by bees.

I don't get why A is better than D. What gives A the edge over D? Their so-called explanation doesn't clarify that. What am I missing here?

  • 1
    I've upvoted your question, but I must let you know that you've selected the wrong answer .... – Araucaria Sep 2 '18 at 0:52
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    It's worth noting that this question is not from an actual test (the test-prep company has a disclaimer at the bottom of the webpage). Practice test questions are almost never as carefully vetted as actual standardized test questions—in plain language, they're often pretty lousy. So don't spend too much time agonizing over this one. – 1006a Sep 3 '18 at 21:11
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Perhaps it is because silk is a product of the worm, honey is the product of a bee, but an egg is in a different category.

In one sense, eggs are the products of chickens. In another sense, eggs when hatched produce chickens. The producer/ product distinction is not as clear as the worm and bee examples. Eggs are embryonic chickens, so they are just chickens in a different form.

There is another distinction: offspring are qualitatively different from non-living products. Eggs are offspring, so the term reproduction is more apt than product.

  • Oh, of course! Both of those make so much sense! I wasn't paying enough attention to the word order, and the offspring observation is spot on. – Wordster Sep 1 '18 at 22:30
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    @Wordster No, this explanation won't go through. That's the same order in all three examples. Honey does not produce bees and silk does not produce worms The animal that produces the product comes second in each example. The correct answer to this dumb exam question is given by S Conroy below. – Araucaria Sep 2 '18 at 0:51
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    My answer was to show why the egg answer was not the correct one. I think you restated my answer. – Theresa Sep 2 '18 at 0:55
  • @Theresa you need to clarify that. It sounds like you think the chicken and egg one is correct. – Tim Sep 2 '18 at 2:27
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    @Theresa but eggs are an edible product of chickens, and honey is an edible product of bees. Silk is not edible. Also, the general knowledge that worms product silk is a poor indicator of innate ability. Awful, awful question. – user234461 Sep 3 '18 at 13:24
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With 'stem' I assume they mean word stem: silkworm and honeybee.

Personally I'd prefer D on the basis that the silk is to protect the silkworms young in the way an egg protects the growing chicken, but I'd have lost. Sometimes you just need to know what the examiner wants..

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    Your last comment is spot on. The third of the golden rules of English exams: Give the monkey what they want! – Araucaria Sep 2 '18 at 0:48
  • An egg does not protect the chicken, an egg is one form of a chicken. – Theresa Sep 2 '18 at 0:57
  • @Theresa. Isn't the chicken only the yolk? Eitherways my phrasing on that bit was wrong. – S Conroy Sep 2 '18 at 1:18
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    No part of a grocery store egg is the embryo. Modern commercial eggs are unfertilized. In a fertilized egg, the yoke feeds the embryo, and the whole thing is surrounded by the white (albumen). – 1006a Sep 2 '18 at 5:07
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    The egg is the whole thing, including the embryo. The egg shell is the part of the egg that protects the embryo. – fishinear Sep 2 '18 at 16:21
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Typically analogies are looking for the answer that is both correct and is most closely related to the stem (which is the set of two words you are given between which you're to find the relationship). In this case, A makes the most sense because only one type of worm makes silk (i.e. a silkworm) just as only one type of bee makes honey (i.e. the honeybee). Numerous breeds of chickens can produce eggs, so that wouldn't be the logical choice - though I could absolutely see that question tripping me up as well!

When you look at an analogy, first determine the relationship then try both phrases in a sentence, only changing the key words. For example, "Silk is made by a silkworm" and "Honey is made by a honeybee." Looking at it that way, I think it's easier to see why you wouldn't say, "Egg is made by an eggchicken."

I hope this helped clarify things a bit. Best of luck to you on your studies!

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    "only one type of bee makes honey" - That is false. Many species of bee, and some other types of insect such as aphids, make honey. "Honey bees" are just the species (plural, not singular!) that are kept by humans to produce honey. World wide, "honey bees" include at least 5 different species of Apis, and the commonest European "honey bee", Apis mellifera, has about a dozen different sub-species in different geographical regions. – alephzero Sep 2 '18 at 9:40
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    All fair points, however, most test questions on standardized tests are written to account for "general" knowledge, not the knowledge of a professional in a specialized field. – TotsieMae Sep 2 '18 at 13:26
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To answer your aside, "stem" is a technical term used by test writers for the part of a question that precedes the options.

A multiple choice item consists of a problem, known as the stem, and a list of suggested solutions, known as alternatives.

source (Vanderbilt University website)

(I agree with TotsieMae about your main question.)

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Their explanation is very unclear. If I had this question I would have immediately recognized honeybee and silkworm as words and got the right answer. But this logic behind this:

  • Silk is produced by a type of worm thus called a silkworm.
  • Honey is produced by a type of bee thus called a honeybee.

But chickens aren't like this. There aren't some chickens that have eggs and some that have live young (like some snakes have eggs, but some live young). Thus we do not talk about eggchicken as opposed to any other sort.

But we could not say egg is to snake or bread is to wheat either, because there is another important point here.

All honey is produced by bees (by definition of honey). All silk is produced by worms (by definition of silk). So silk means specifically what you get from a type of worm and honey means specifically what you get from a type of bee. None of the other alternatives fits this pattern.

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I think that the main point in the explanation as to why A is better than D is this:

sequence presented here is another variation, this time involving insects.

The example involving bees is closer than that involving chickens to the example of silkworms because they are also insects.

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