How Long is the SAT?


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When getting ready for the SAT, or the Scholastic Aptitude Test, students have many things to keep in mind. They also have many questions, such as how long is the SAT?

how long is the sat

This article will answer that question, as well as provide additional detail and context.

How Long does the SAT take?

The SAT takes a total of three hours, or three hours and 15 minutes including the breaks. If the student also takes the optional essay test, then the SAT takes three hours and 50 minutes in all, or four hours and five minutes including the breaks.

What Time Does the SAT Start and End?

The SAT itself usually starts at about 9:00 a.m. It is crucially important, however, to know that the doors to the testing center are only open between 7:45 a.m and 8:00 a.m. Students must make sure to be in the room before the doors close at 8:00 a.m.

Students who take the test without the optional essay portion will typically finish between about 12:15 to 12:45. The test itself takes three hours, plus 15 minutes of breaks, for a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Students who opt to take the additional writing section can expect to finish between about 1:00 to 1:30. The test with the writing section takes 3 hours and 50 minutes, plus breaks, for a total of four hours and five minutes.

Do you know the difference between the SAT and PSAT (what is the PSAT)?

How Many Breaks Are There on the SAT?

Students taking the SAT get 15 minutes of total break time, which are split up into three separate breaks.

The first break is ten minutes and comes after the 65-minute reading section. The second break is five minutes, and is given after the writing and no-calculator math section.

Finally, a short two-minute break is provided between the math calculator section and the optional essay section.

This is how long the ACT takes.

How Long Is Each Section of the SAT?

There are four sections of the SAT, as well as an optional essay section, which brings the total to five sections. Some students also receive an additional section of experimental questions that do not count in their score.

The first section is Reading and has 65 questions. Next is Writing, which is 35 minutes.

After that is the Math no-calculator section, which is 25 minutes long. The Math Calculator section is 38 minutes long.

The optional Essay section is 50 minutes long.

Sometimes students will be presented with an additional 20-minute test section. If so, these questions are experimental questions and do not count toward a student’s score.

How Many Minutes Is Each Question on the SAT?

This brings us to one of the most important questions, which is how long to spend on each question on the SAT. Proper pacing is important in order to be able to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

The following table breaks down how much time to spend on each question in each section of the exam.

SAT Section Minutes # of Questions Time per Question
Reading 65 52 75 seconds
Writing and Language 35 44 almost 48 seconds
Math, no-calculator 25 20 75 seconds
Math, calculator 55 38 almost 87 seconds
Writing (Optional) 50 1 prompt to read and 1 essay to write Varied, but remember to allow time to read, organize, write, and review and revise

The Reading section has 52 questions and is 65 minutes longs. This gives students 75 seconds to read and answer each question.

Writing and Language has 44 questions and allows 35 minutes. As a result, students have almost 48 seconds for each question in this section.

Next is the Math no-calculator section with 20 questions in 25 minutes. Like the reading section, this portion allows students 75 seconds to answer each question.

The Math with calculator section has 38 questions in a 55-minute timespan. This provides students with almost 87 seconds per question.

The optional essay portion is 50 minutes long with one essay. Students may pace their time however works best for them, but should remember to allow time for reading the prompt, organizing their thoughts, writing, and reviewing and revising.

How to Manage Your Time During the SAT

In addition to studying and preparing for the content within the SAT, it is also critically important to practice managing your time correctly.

The first step in managing one’s time is to review the average time per question. This information, along with the number of questions and total time per section, is described in the section and table above.

Use this as a guide while you are preparing for the test to practice keeping an appropriate pace. During the test, try to make sure you are continuing this pace.

The point of pacing is to try to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

The time per question is an average. If a student answers several questions more quickly than the average, then he or she will have extra time to spend on more challenging questions.

Of course, the inverse is true, as well. Every question that a student spends extra time on takes time away from answering other questions that he or she might have been able to answer correctly.

Therefore, if a student notices he or she is spending too much time on a question, it is better to move on. He or she should answer as many other questions correctly as they can and come back to that one later, if there is time.

Students should keep in mind that they may want to review their work, as well.

If that is the case, they can allow for a certain number of seconds to check their work as they go. Another option is to quicken their pacing to allow for a few minutes to review everything at the end.

Making the Best Use of Breaks During the SAT

Another factor in managing one’s time during the SAT is to make the best use of the break times. Three or more hours is a long time to focus, so it is important to use breaks to refresh one’s energy and attention.

The first break, which is 10 minutes and comes after a 65-minute stretch of testing, is a good time to use the restroom

It is also a good time to have a small, healthy snack, and a little bit of water. (Not too much, as there is still a lot more testing to take place.)

The following three and two minute breaks can also be used to take a very short bathroom break, or have a quick snack or drink. Or, students can just stretch and take deep breaths.

The main goal is to stay as alert as possible, without being overly stressed or distracted.

How Long Does the SAT Take?

The SAT generally takes three hours, or three hours and 15 minutes if counting the breaks. For students who take the optional writing portion of the test, the SAT becomes three hours and 50 minutes, or four hours and five minutes, including the breaks.

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