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How Long Is SAT

Preparation for the SAT can often dominate families’ minds in the leadup to the test. As students continue to stress over getting as many questions right as possible, the time constraints of the test can get put on the backburner. Forgetting to practice timing can lead to unexpected challenges for students on test day and make them feel like their college dreams are slipping away with each passing minute. As a result, students should know the ins and outs of how long the SAT is so that they can do the most with their SAT test time.

1. What Time Does The SAT Start And End?

Although there is no official time that the SAT begins and concludes, the College Board provides general guidance to each test center to prevent leaked test information. Normally the SAT starts between 8:30 and 9:00 at the testing center, which means it concludes between 12:15 and 1:00 pm depending on factors such as how quickly a proctor reads the pre-test script and how quickly students bubble in their personal information. Parents picking their student up should plan to arrive at the test center on the earlier side of things if they want to be there when their student finishes.

1.1 Other Time Factors to Consider

Get there early

Despite the fact that the test usually starts no earlier than 8:30, students should plan to arrive about an hour early for a number of reasons. First, this ensures that if there is a line to check in or other unexpected factors that lengthen wait time, students will still be able to sit for the test with plenty of time to spare. Planning to arrive early also allows for time for students to double back home if they realize they’ve forgotten something they need for the test such as a pencil or their calculator. Additionally, students should pay attention to their test ticket and sign up information to see if the testing center doors lock at a certain time. In almost all cases the doors will lock at 8 am. A good plan leaves plenty of time for students to enter the testing center, check in for the exam, and situate themselves before the proctor begins reading the instructions.

Break time

When taking practice tests at home students should factor in the SAT break times that will happen on test day. There is a 10 minute break after the reading section and a 5 minute break after the non-calculator math section. Students can use breaks to do a number of things including hydrate, eat a snack, and use the restroom. Practicing and planning for these breaks will help students achieve their best scores.


Another timing factor students must not overlook is their own fatigue on test day. Figuring out the best way to keep energy and morale high on test day plays directly into achieving one’s full potential. If students are overly fatigued they should remind themselves that the test lasts a finite amount of time and if they can lock in for a little while longer, they will reap the benefits in the long term.

2. How Long Is The SAT Test?

Total Time

Factoring in the breaks, the full SAT takes 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. However it can feel much longer or much shorter depending on certain circumstances. If students dread the exam or have been stressing about the SAT length, they will be more susceptible to mental drain on the test. These students should pack a snack to give them energy during break times as it could help propel them across the finish line. On the other hand, the time will feel shorter for many students once the test begins and the time constraints require them to perform efficiently  to answer every question. In order to do this students should review the time limits for each section and make a plan for how they can maximize their score.

The test proctor will announce the time limits during each section and give periodic updates on the remaining time left in each section. Additionally, most proctors will write out the start and end times for each section on the whiteboard so students can keep track of time during the exam. This allows students to keep track of time and remain on a steady pace throughout the section.

3. SAT Test Time Breakdown By Sections

3.1 Reading

The reading section of the SAT consists of 52 questions distributed between 5 sections and has a duration of 65 minutes. In this section students need to think the hardest about budgeting their time because they must read the passage, understand the most important aspects of it, and answer the questions. This might be the most challenging aspect of the SAT length so adequate preparation proves essential. Practice time should be spent on trying out different techniques and strategies to ensure test takers have enough time to consistently answer every question on each section.

3.2 Writing And Language:

The writing section of the SAT consists of 44 questions over 35 minutes. Like the other sections, some questions in this part of the test will take longer than others. The best way to prepare for the writing section in terms of time is to memorize certain grammar rules and English conventions as some questions will hinge on selecting the correct homophone or verb tense. If students can speed through those easier questions, it will allow them more time to analyze the longer questions that ask things like whether certain sentences should be kept or removed from the larger passage.

3.3 Math – No Calculator: 25 minutes

The non-calculator portion of the SAT math section consists of 20 questions over 25 minutes. One important thing students should remember when entering the math section is that the difficulty level of questions increase as the section progresses. This means if an early question seems to require a lot of time, work, and/or energy, they are probably taking the wrong approach to it. Another important time management skill in both math sections is the ability to skip tough questions in order to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

3.4 Math – Calculator: 55 Minutes

The calculator portion of the SAT math section consists of 38 questions over 55 minutes. Many of the same time management principles that apply in the non-calculator section of the SAT apply in the calculator section. Keeping in mind the advancing difficulty level and the importance of skipping “impossible questions”, students also need to find a balance between when to and when not to use their calculator. Too much reliance on the calculator can eat into time that could be spent on other questions but too little reliance opens the door for overlooking easy mistakes. The best way to practice time management on these math sections is to repeatedly do sections with an eye on the clock. Over time students will be able to find that balance and achieve their maximum potential.

4. Is There Extended Time On SAT?

In short, yes. The College Board allows students to apply for extended time on the SAT. Each family must specify the exact amount of extra time their student needs and the reason why their student needs extra time on a request submitted for approval to the College Board. Families who believe that their students qualify for extended time on the SAT should follow the instructions on the College Board website to apply.

5. How To Manage Your Time During The Test

5.1 Wear A Watch

Sometimes seating arrangements in the testing room force students to crane their neck to see the clock or squint to make out the numbers on it. Students who want to mitigate this potential issues should wear a watch to the testing center. When choosing a watch to bring, students need to pick one that complies with the rules for watches set out by the College Board. While digital watches are allowed, “Any devices, including digital watches, that can be used to record, transmit, receive, or play back audio, photographic, text, or video content” are prohibited. Moreover, if a student’s watch makes any noise during the exam they could face consequences such as test invalidation so those who bring watches must be careful.

5.2 Answer What You Know First

Any student who strives to be a good time manager has to know how to prioritize questions on the SAT. This starts with the ability to come to terms with skipping questions a student does not know how to complete. Almost every student will encounter a question they cannot answer immediately and focusing on that question can often come at the expense of answering other questions. Smart time managers will accept that some questions must be skipped in the name of time and will make sure to answer every question they do know before devoting a disproportionate amount of time to questions they do not know. At home students can practice cutting their losses and circling back to make it a habit for test day.

5.3 Limit Distractions

Students should do all that they can to mitigate potential distractions posed by testing conditions. Some distractions students face include: running out of supplies, discomfort, and hunger. As a result, students should make sure to bring more supplies than they think they will need, including extra erasers. They should also make sure to wear comfortable clothes and to bring a sweatshirt in case the testing room is colder than expected. Finally, students need to eat a healthy and filling breakfast to prevent distractions from hunger during the test. They should also bring a snack in case they need a boost going into the later portions of the exam.

5.4 Don’t Be a Hero

Many high schoolers are self-conscious about so many things, including how others perceive them. On the SAT, those thoughts need to go out the window. Students should not try to power through another section without making a restroom run during a break or be self conscious about others seeing them taking breaths to calm themselves down. Whatever a student needs to do during the test to do their best, they should do, regardless of what other people may think.

6. Figure Out Your SAT Preparation Plan Today With So Flo

Managing time on the SAT can seem much easier said than done. However, getting one-on-one SAT tutoring from SoFlo ensures that students not only learn how to best manage their time, but also get personalized guidance in all aspects of the exam. All of SoFlo’s tutors have extensive experience with the SAT and had success themselves when they took it. SoFlo tutors will design a study plan for each student that takes into account their strengths and weaknesses to maximize test performance. If students need help in a certain section, with time management, or simply want to bump their score up a little bit, SoFlo will make sure they get there.

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