This article reports on the value of using student‐generated analogies with undergraduate science students as a strategy for promoting conceptual understanding. A quantitative study was undertaken involving students in four sections of an introductory chemistry course for prospective science majors attending a four year college in British Columbia, Canada. Students in one section of the course developed, performed and discussed analogies representing a conceptually difficult chemistry topic. Students in three other sections received instruction on the same topic via a teacher‐generated analogy combined with in‐class discussion. To assess the impact of student‐generated analogies, students’ performance on a final exam question was compared across the four sections and their answers were analyzed for evidence of depth of conceptual understanding. Students who generated their own analogies performed significantly better in the exam and demonstrated a greater level of conceptual understanding than students who were presented with a teacher‐derived analogy. It is particularly noteworthy that lower‐achieving students who devised and enacted analogies for their peers significantly out‐performed their counterparts who received more traditional instruction.