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SAT

How long is the SAT?

Written by Shefali Sundram

Updated on: 03 Jan 2024

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  • The SAT is a three-hour test. If we include the breaks, the SAT is exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes long.
  • If you sign up for the optional essay section, the test takes 3 hours 50 mins and if you include breaks it would be 4 hours 5 mins. 

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Are you a student in the United States preparing to take the SAT? One question that often arises during SAT preparation is, “How long is the SAT?” 

According to the College Board, 1.7 million students took the SAT in 2022 and 1.5 million in 2021. The SAT is an important test and is a requirement for several college applications in the United States. 

In this informative article, we will provide you with a detailed overview of the duration and structure of the SAT, equipping you with the essential information you need to excel on this crucial exam. 

How long is the SAT?

The SAT is a three-hour test. You will receive two breaks during the exam. A 10-minute break after the first section and the second 5 minutes after the third section. If we include the breaks, the SAT is exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes long.

If you sign up for the optional essay section, the test takes 3 hours 50 mins and if you include breaks it would be 4 hours 5 mins. 

People with disabilities may request to receive extra tests and break times. Although, be aware that the extended time requires you to stay the entire amount of time. Even if you finish the test before time you are not allowed to leave early.

How many questions are on the SAT?

SAT has four sections consisting of a total of 154 questions. 

The College Board removed the optional Essay section in 2021 – except in schools where state law requires to include the essay when administering the SAT during a school day.

Read our detailed resource on: How many questions are on the SAT

What about the essay section?

The essay section is only available in states where it is required as a part of SAT School Day administrations. Students scheduled to take the SAT on a school day can check with their school about whether the Essay is included or not. 

If the section is included, students will be given an additional time of 50 minutes.

SAT time breakdown

Here is a time breakdown for the SAT:

SAT time breakdown without the essay section:

SectionNumber of questionsTimeTime per question
Reading5265 minutes75 seconds
Break N/A10 minutesN/A
Writing and Language4435 minutes48 seconds
Math — No-Calculator2025 minutes75 seconds
Break N/A 5 minutesN/A
Math- Calculator3855 minutes87 seconds
Total154195 minutesN/A
SAT time breakdown without the essay section

SAT time breakdown with essay section: 

SectionNumber of questionsTimeTime per question
Reading5265 minutes75 seconds
Break N/A10 minutesN/A
Writing and Language4435 minutes48 seconds
Math — No-Calculator2025 minutes75 seconds
Break N/A 5 minutesN/A
Math- Calculator3855 minutes87 seconds
Break N/A5 minutes N/A
Essay 150 minutes Depends on the student
Total155255 minutesN/A
SAT time breakdown with the essay section

What time does the test start?

The test center doors open at 7:45 a.m. and close at 8 a.m., on weekends. When the students are in the test room, the proctor will collect all electronic devices and backpacks. All the calculators should be approved for the SAT which the proctor checks.

The test begins between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. After all the students are seated, checked in, and ready to start the test. The proctor distributes the test material and reads the preliminary instructions.

Apart from the SAT weekend testing dates, many schools in the USA offer SAT School Day testing. It gives the students the opportunity to take the SAT at school on a weekday rather than on Saturday.

How to know how much time is left?

The proctor announces during different sections how much time remains. The timing of the first announcement depends on the length of that section but comes roughly at the halfway point.

A second warning is given when 5 minutes are remaining. Once the time is up, the proctor will let you know.

The proctor will also let you know the exact time each section starts and ends and exactly when the test will resume after all the breaks.

How many breaks does the student receive?

The total amount of breaks given in the SAT is 15 minutes, split into two separate breaks. The first break is of 10 minutes which is provided after a 65-minute reading section. The second break is of 5 minutes which is given in between the two math sections.

A two-minute of short break is provided after the math calculator section if you choose the optional essay section.

Making the best use of breaks during the SAT?

Three or more hours is a long time to focus, so it is important to use the breaks to refresh your energy and attention.

The first break is 10 minutes and comes after a 65-minute of reading section. It is a good time to use the restroom and have a small, healthy snack.

The second break is 5 mins which can be used for a short restroom break and recharge yourself with a small snack. You can also take a short walk and stretch. This will increase your blood flow and recharge you for the next section of the test.

The main goal is to stay focused on the test without getting stressed or distracted.

Break tips to remember

  • Always keep your ID and admission ticket with you. They will be checked every time you enter the testing room.
  • The test book, answer sheet, and calculator must remain on your desk during your breaks.
  • Don’t use any devices, like cell phones. The penalty for doing so is score cancellation.
  • You may only eat in designated areas. Arrive at the test administration early so you can determine where these areas are ahead of time.

How to manage your time during the SAT?

It is important to practice managing your time, besides studying and preparing for the SAT. 

The first step of managing one’s time is to review the average time per question. The average time per question for the SAT section is as below:

  • Reading Section: 65-minutes allotted to answer 52 questions (75 seconds per question)
  • Writing and Language Section: 35-minutes allotted to answer 44 questions (48 seconds per question)
  • Math (No Calculator) Section: 25-minutes allotted to answer 20 questions (75 seconds per question)
  • Math (Calculator) Section: 55-minutes allotted to answer 38 questions (about 87 seconds per question)
  • Essay Section (Optional): 50-minutes allotted to answer 1 question

While preparing for the test practice to keep an appropriate pace. During the test, make sure you are continuing at this pace. The point of pacing is to try to answer as many questions as possible.

The time per question is an average for every student. If you answer some questions faster than the average, you will have extra time to work on challenging questions. 

The inverse is true, as well. Therefore, if you notice that you are spending too much time on a question. You should focus on other questions and you can come back to the tough ones later. 

In the end, check your work before submitting it. You might get a few seconds to review even if the time is over.

Recommended reading: When should you take the SAT?

Conclusion

The SAT is a three-hour test. SAT has 4 sections consisting of a total of 154 questions.

If we include the breaks, the SAT is exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes long. If you choose the optional essay section 50 minutes are added to the time. The test duration extends to 3 hours and 50 minutes without breaks and 4 hours and 5 minutes with breaks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What time does the SAT finish?

The SAT starts between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and typically ends around 12:00 p.m. If you have the optional essay section your test would end at 1:00 p.m.

Why was there a 5th section on the SAT?

In addition to the 4th optional essay section in the SAT, some students also get an additional 5th section. The fifth section is experimental and it won’t be counted in your official SAT score. 

According to the College Board, “Your test may contain an additional 20-minute section. We occasionally pre-test new test items to determine if they should be used on future test forms. Pre-test items can appear in any section and are not included in computing students’ scores. This means that test time is extended by 20 minutes.”

Does the experimental 5th section of the SAT affect your score?

No, the 5th section doesn’t affect your SAT score. It is an experimental section to test new questions for future use. 

Does SAT have a dress code?

No, it doesn’t have a dress code but it is recommended to wear pants and a shirt that is loose, soft, and comfortable. Bring a jacket, too, in case it’s chilly at the testing center.

References

  1. BestColleges- How Long Is the SAT? Tips to Manage Your Time. (n.d),Retrieved 24th May 2023, from https://www.bestcolleges.com/test-prep/sat/how-long-is-sat/.
  2. College Board Blog – How Long Does the SAT Take?. (n.d). Retrieved 24th May 2023, from https://blog.collegeboard.org/how-long-does-the-sat-take
  3. ThinkImpact-How Long is the SAT? How Long Does It Take in 2023. (n.d), Retrieved 24th May 2023, from https://www.thinkimpact.com/how-long-is-the-sat/
  4. Prep Expert- SAT Time Breakdown With Breaks,(n.d). Retrieved 24th May 2023, fromhttps://prepexpert.com/sat-time-breakdown-with-breaks/

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Shefali Sundram

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