Mulling the Miller Analogies


    I've been perusing practice tests for the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), and am struck with how difficult a few of the questions are. For example, here are a few sample questions that I thought are demanding:

MEATUS : (a. body  b. river  c. impetuous  d. contumelious) :: STRAIT : WATER

FABACEOUS : (a. plant  b.seed  c. shrub  d. bean) :: AQUILINE : EAGLE

TIFFANY : GLASS :: CHRISTO JAVACHEF : (a. islands  b. sculpture  c. found objects  d. paining)

TIZANO VECELLIO : TITIAN :: DOMENIKOS THEOTOKOPOULAS : (a. Domenik  b. El Greco  c. Theo  d. Poulous)

ASSOCIATIONS : (a. celestial sphere  b. cosmic rays  c. binary stars  d. cardinal points) :: SCATTERED : BOUND

OEDIPUS : (Clymaenestra  b. Jocasta  c. Antigone  d. Cassandra) : CLAUDIUS : GERTRUDE

NORSE : JUDEO-CHRISTIAN :: (a. Bragi  b. Balder  c. Buri  d. Ask) : ADAM

TONI MORRISON : BELOVED :: (a. Jane Smiley  b. John Updike  c. Norman Mailer  d. Alice Walker)  : RABBIT AT REST

STEVENSON : EISENHOWER :: (a. Wilke  b. Dewey  c. Landon  d. Davis)  : COOLIDGE

    All of these questions but one are taken from one practice test. It would take quite a span of knowledge to be able to answer all these questions correctly, together with all the other questions on the test, in order to get a perfect score (although the other questions on the test are much easier.) For example, fabaceous isn't found in an abridged dictionary, nor is the Norse equivalent for Adam. And to get a perfect score, one would need to know all of these words and disparate facts. And I'm struck with the level of difficulty of the required vocabulary on other Miller Analogy practice tests. It's far above  what's required for the SAT or the GRE.
    So what does a perfect score of 100 buy you?
    Mensa, at the 1 in 50 level, requires a score of 66 on the MAT to qualify for admission. Colloquy, at the 1 in 200 level, accepts a 70 to an 82. depending upon the specific version of the MAT. The one-in-a-thousand societies set their admission levels at a MAT score of 85 for the Triple-Nine Society (TNS), and at 89 for two other one-in-a-thousand societies. The Prometheus Society (1 in 30,000) requires a 98, although Kjeld Hvatum has recommended a 96 for admission. So a perfect score would elevate you only slightly above the four-sigma (1 in 30,000) level. At the same time, the requisite range of knowledge rises very rapidly as you reach the limits of this test.
    Ceiling effects may also subvert the meanings of nearly-perfect scores on the MAT.
    I took the MAT in 1962 when I applied for admission to graduate school at Vanderbilt. I don't remember it being this hard.
    Of course, it's entirely possible that with lots of test preparation guides available, and with people taking these tests more than once, the bar may have been raised over the years, to compensate for the greater test sophistication and preparation of the testing population.
    The other possibility is the Flynn Effect, although scores on the SAT and the GRE presumably haven't been improving over the decades.
    And of course, these are only practice tests. The real thing may be slightly different from these manufactured practice guides.
    By and large, I think they're good. A broad base of knowledge is clearly beneficial, as opposed to deep knowledge in one or a few fields.