SAT English Study Tip #5 – SAT Critical Reading Part I – Prompt & Translation Practice #2

Now, use the Prompt & Translation strategy with a more complex prompt and passage:

            “The following passage is a reflection about the Old Middle West and its influence on modern society.”

So, this passage prompt does not have much to go on here. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get as much as you can from it. When you read “Old West” what you think of? Sure, it actually says “old Middle West” but if you’re like most people, you’re probably not sure what the difference even as. Old West generally means Wild West, cowboys, horses, saloons, and tumbleweeds. It could conjure up images of bar fights, shootouts, and a sense of violence that was commonplace in the mid-late 1800s. Old Middle West might be similar to the Old West in terms of time periods, but could refer to middle America or Midwest states. Either way, you can probably be confident in assuming the passage will focus on a period of history that is characterized by hardship, hard work, and overcoming adversity – a time where people didn’t have things as easy as they do today. Perhaps it made them cautious about what or who to trust, what to believe in, or how to spend their hard-earned money. Either way, put yourself in the character of someone from the late 1800s, even though we can predict the article may be more academically written than the previous practice passage you just read. If, as you start to read, you realize the passage is actually more formally written, then read it as such – like you are the keynote speaker reading your paper to an eager audience.

Now, read the passage and translate as you go:

The old Middle West is gone. However, it still lives in song and story. Give most children the choice of visiting Valley Forge or Dodge City… Dodge City wins. It is more glamorous and their imagination than Valley Forge.


‘Dodge city wins, it’s more glamorous in their imagination than Valley Forge’ – something spectacular, exciting – reminiscent of the wild West idea you predicted.


The old middle West and developed a strong, compassionate people out of the hardships and suffering of the obstructive wizards of earlier generations – “northers” that swept over it with white clouds of blinding snow and ice – and southern winds that brought black blizzards of dust storms.


‘strong, compassionate people… hardships’ – your prediction from the prompt was bang on here! Go with it!


The Middle West is realistic about the nation’s domestic and international affairs. It views both with intense interest and exciting, for he knows that – although stubborn resistance to change can lead to catastrophe – change often does have unforeseen ramifications.


‘realistic about the nation’s domestic and international affairs’ – they knew what state their country within, no fooling these hard-working people.

‘change has unforeseen ramifications’– maybe they know to be cautious for with change can sometimes come destruction or unforeseen problems.


This caution is still – especially on political major questions – present in the modern Middle West and is its particular contribution to our national relationships.


‘this caution is still – especially in politics – present in modern Middle West’ – key point here – the author is telling you how people still are today – cautious – based on history of the old Middle West.


I think the Middle West’s strength is in its customary cautious approach to the day of reckoning in our complex industrial structure and what should be put forward for its solution. The solution will take time, for slapdash approaches never work.


‘… the Middle West’s strength is in its customary cautious approach… and what should be put forward for its solution… slapdash approaches never work’ – keep it being cautious, quick answers without careful thought never solve anything.


It took thirty years for our great country to recover from the upheaval of the Civil War. It took thirty years for our country to discard the Democrat policy that the way to settle economic troubles was with fiat money. It made inflation the prime issue in 1936. It still is.


‘… thirty years to recover… 30 years to discard the policy that… the way to settle economic troubles was with fiat money… inflation the prime issue… it still is’ – even if you aren’t sure what “fiat” means, you can probably assume that the way things have been dealt with (economically) has been ineffective since it took thirty years to discard the method. Throw the term “inflation” in there and you can assume the problem has to do with throwing money at the problem or spending money the country doesn’t have.


Our era has seen some fifty years of war and international tension piled on top of World War I, and enormous industrial development.

The new West is more worldly minded than the old Middle West was, and, in general, is a balance between the East Coast – with alignment toward Europe and the Atlantic countries – and the West Coast – with its interests in Asian affairs.


‘…has seen fifty years of war and international tension… enormous industrial development… The New West is more worldly and balanced’ – things are better now, we know more than we did 50 years ago. We are more in-tune with the rest of the world.


There is still a noticeable difference between the atmosphere in the Middle West and that of the Eastern states. It is more free and easy. There are not as many old families with local supremacy. The East “money power” – as the old Middle West called it – is now the “Establishment”.


‘… a noticeable difference between the atmosphere in old Middle West and Eastern states… it is more free and easy… not as many old families with supremacy… East’s money power is now the Establishment’ – Eastern states have money, or rather had families with all the money and, therefore, they have made a name for themselves. They are seen as having a sense of superiority or “better than” complex.


The parallel factor is the desire on the part of many heads of families in many lines of activity to change from the tensions and insecurity of life in the big cities to the pleasure and comfort that come from the security of living in smaller towns. In the Middle West, it has increasingly taken the form of people remaining in smaller cities and giving them new life and intelligence. This has strengthened smaller communities and offset the flow of Middle Westerners to the big cities. There are, however, signs that cities in general are no longer content to be corrupt. There is pragmatic awakening that can mean a new leadership – with a growing understanding of their problems and responsibilities. This newly awakened urban leadership, joining the Midwest and small city leadership in the quest for stability, may just possibly be the salvation of the big cities.


‘… parallel factor is the desire to… change from the tensions of big cities… to the pleasure and comfort of security in small towns… stay in smaller cities and give them new life and intelligence… has strengthened smaller communities…’ – people in these affluent families are wanting the safety and easy-going nature of smaller towns and cities – something similar (or parallel) to that of the old Middle West philosophy.

‘… however, signs that cities in general are no longer content to be corrupt’ – “however” is always a keyword to be noticed (in any part of the SAT). Here it indicates that change is afoot, and that big cities want to change and to not be seen as being a corrupt and untrustworthy or uncertain.

‘… new leadership… urban leadership joining the Midwest and small city leadership… in the quest for stability… may be the salvation of the big cities.’ – a shift in thinking is going on. Big cities are wanting stability and new leadership is heading in this direction.


That is a reversal of the trend that started some years ago that seemed to threaten the stagnation of the Middle West by the tide of migration to the metropolitan areas.


‘… a reversal of the trend started some years ago… stagnation of the Middle West… tide of migration to the big metropolis cities’ – it seems that people are starting to avoid moving to bigger metropolis centers, as was the trend previously.


The Jews are almost the only people in America today – or, in the world, for that matter – that, during Passover, we call to the memory of the present generation there is tremendous racial achievements there leadership and their heroes of long ago. Press enter on the other hand, the freedom of communications – the easy movement of Americans around their great country – and the ease of changing occupations are remarkable in the United States. All contribute to breaking down ethnic and religious group prejudices.


‘the Jews are almost the only people who… Recall to memory… The leadership of heroes long ago’ –few people or religions pay honor to those who paved the way for our tremendous achievement made possible in the modern world.

‘On the other hand… Freedom of easy movement of Americans… All contributions to the breaking down of ethnic groups and religious prejudices’ – in today’s modern world, everyone has more freedom than in the past, freedom to move freely across the country, breaking down the long-held views of others.


Possibly one reason we have so much difficulty in resolving our problems of a complex society is that we have tended to lose not only a sense of national identity, but a sense of pride in and a strong feeling for the special qualities of our local area.


‘… One reason for such difficulty in resolving problems in a complex society… Is a loss of national identity and a sense of pride of strong qualities of our local area’ – as Americans, there is a loss of identity – the kind that comes from knowing your neighbors were staying in one community for a long time.


What Americans must find is a way to square their diversification, and the freedom upon which it is based, with the older sense of identity and of stability. Perhaps the contemporary Middle West offers the answer in its freer acceptance of people as they are, and as they are capable of becoming – a surviving characteristic of mutual helpfulness, willingness to accept change – not for change’s sake, but on its merits.


‘… Americans must find a way to square their diversification… with an older sense of identity and stability… perhaps the Middle West offers the answers… in its freer acceptance of people of mutual helpfulness, willingness to accept change… on its merits.’ – find a way to use the old Middle West ideas in today’s modern society. Except to help others, not because it’s based on having to change, but because we believe it is the true way to go.

 Sat English

As you can see, the translation technique is most useful and effective when taken a little-by-little through each paragraph. It is very difficult to translate an entire paragraph start  to finish without breaking it up bit-by-bit – so, don’t even try. Push yourself to use your own words and to strive for that “gut feeling” of knowing when you have understood what you’ve just read – even if you can’t get every word, that’s OK. Be strong! Don’t fool yourself by continuing to read when you haven’t translated a section in a way that makes sense to you. Sure, you might “get it” if you read on, but many times, students don’t get it and have to reread anyway. Translating as you go is the only way to ensure you are in the best position possible for correctly answering multiple-choice questions.

© 2009 - 2018 B Line Test Prep | All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board. Neither the College Board or the Graduate Admission Council is not affiliated and does not endorse this website. All marks are the property of their respective owners.