SAT English Study Tip #4 – SAT Critical Reading Part I – Prompt & Translation Practice #1

Sat English

OK, with all this talk about Prompt & Translation, it’s now time to try to put what you’ve learned to the test. Let’s use the passage below:

            “The following passage is an account based on a journal entry of a young boy visiting his cousin. Together, they experienced daybreak in this lakeside wilderness”


So, after reading the passage prompt, you become the boy who is visiting his cousin. The passage is a journal entry, so expect emotional writing or vivid details of the boys experienced that day. The prompt tells of a “lakeside wilderness” and “daybreak”, so you conjure up images of morning at a lake – what would you see, what would you smell, what sounds are typical of that scene? Finally, the boy is visiting his cousin, so he is therefore probably experiencing something that he hasn’t before – something his cousin might be all-too-familiar with.

Now, read the passage and translate:

Mist continues to obscure the horizon, but above us the sky is suddenly awash with lavender light. At once the geese respond. Now, as well as their cries, a beating roar rolls across the water as if five thousand housekeepers have taken it into their heads to shake out blankets all at one time. Ten thousand housekeepers. It keeps up – the invisible rhythmic beating of all those goose wings – for what seems a long time. Even Lonnie is held motionless with suspense.


‘misty air, the geese respond, a beating roar across the water’ – something is going on, very loud, movement, flock of birds, how would it sound?

‘shaking blankets, ten thousand shaking blankets, rhythmic beating, Lonnie is motionless’ – lots of movement, lots of birds, Lonnie is my cousin and even he is amazed.


Then the geese begin to rise. One, two, three hundred – then a thousand at a time – in long horizontal lines that unfurl like pennants across the sky. The horizon actually darkens as they pass. It goes on and on like that, flock after flock, for three or four minutes, each new contingent announcing its ascent with an accelerating roar of cries and wing beats. Then gradually the intervals between flights become longer. I think the spectacle is over, until yet another flock lifts up, following the others in a gradual turn toward the northeastern quadrant of the refuge.



‘the geese rise, horizon darkens, new contingent announces its ascent’ – more birds fly, dark sky from the birds, more birds cry out and leave the lake

Finally the sun emerges from the mist; the mist itself been a little, uncovering the black line of willows on the other side of the wildlife preserve. I remember to close my mouth – which has been open for some time – and inadvertently shot two or three mosquitoes inside. Only a few straggling geese oar their way across the sun’s red surface. Lonnie wears an exasperated, proprietary expression as if he had produced and directed the show himself and had just received a bad review. “It would’ve been better with more light,” he says; “I can’t always guarantee just when they’ll start moving.” I assured him I thought it was a fantastic site. “Well,” he grumbles, “I guess it wasn’t too bad.”



‘the sun emerges, the mist thins, Lonnie wears exasperated, proprietary expression as if he had produced and directed the show and just received a bad review’ – the sight is over, the sun is coming up, the air clears, and Lonnie seems like he’s not happy or even disappointed with what has just happened.

It would have been better with more light, I assure him it was a fantastic site, he says it wasn’t so bad’ – Lonnie makes excuses for it not being so spectacular because maybe he’s seen better and he is a bit embarrassed at having shown me something that’s not as great as he hoped it would be. He doesn’t get that I still think it’s amazing, something I’m not used to, and something I’ve never really ever experienced. He downplays it a bit, says “it’s not too bad” but really, I think he wishes it was better.


Sat English

As you can see, translations are made bit-by-bit, section-by-section of the sentence – not paragraph at a time. The translations are simply re-statements in any old words you want them to be – as long as they make sense to you, in your gut. By way of these translations, you are in the best possible position to answer the multiple-choice questions because you have completely grasped the main ideas of what the author, the boy, was trying to express from that day.

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