How Long is the SAT Test?

SAT Test Times, Length, & Schedule Explained

how-long-is-the-sat-testSAT Test Time & Duration Explained

The SAT test is a college entrance exam that evaluates a student’s knowledge and skills in reading, writing, and math. The full SAT test typically takes 4 hours and 7 minutes to complete including breaks.

The SAT is designed to measure high school graduates’ college readiness. Acing this test is not only about adequate preparation, but it’s also about time management. Students are given limited amount of time to answer each question and complete each section.

That’s why it’s so important to know the number of questions in each SAT section as well as the total time you have to complete the test. Let’s look at the SAT test times and some strategies that you can use to optimize your testing time, so you can boost your SAT score.

How Long Does the SAT Test Take?

The SAT test consists of four sections that takes approximately 180 minutes to complete, not including the optional essay writing section.

If you take the optional essay writing, the full SAT test will take approximately 4 hours to complete with each test section taking between 25 and 60 minutes. The essay writing portion of the SAT is approximately 50 minutes long.

Here is a full test duration breakdown showing the amount of time you will take to complete the SAT test times including breaks:

SAT Test SectionTotal QuestionsTime Length
(Exam Duration)
Reading5265 Minutes
Break10 Minutes
Writing & Language4435 Minutes
Math (Without Calculator)2023 Minutes
Break5 Minutes
Math (With Calculator)3855 Minutes
Break2 Minutes
Essay Writing (optional)150 Minutes

Keep in mind that each test section is essentially a completely different exam. Once you finish one, you are not allowed to return to it and answer new questions or change your previous answers. Once the time is up, you can’t go back to that section again.

The exam has three breaks. But, if you are not taking the essay part, it will be two breaks.

The first break will be ten minutes, and the second after the math no calculator part will be five minutes. Before you sit the essay writing, you will have two minutes break.

If you take the entire SAT test including the Essay Writing Section, the SAT will take almost four hours from the moment you sit at the test center to the time you complete the essay writing.

How Many Questions are on the SAT?

The full SAT test has 154 questions in total with an optional writing essay section. Here’s a list of the total questions for each SAT test section:

  • SAT Reading Section: 52 questions
  • SAT Writing & Language Section: 44 questions
  • SAT Math (Without Calculator) Section: 20 questions
  • SAT Math (With Calculator) Section: 38 questions

Additionally, here’s an SAT test question chart that displays how many questions are on each section of the SAT test.

SAT Test SectionTotal Questions
Writing & Language44
Math (Without Calculator)20
Math (With Calculator)38
Essay Writing (optional)1 Essay

What Time Does the SAT Test Start?

The SAT test starts at 8:30 AM. You should be at the test center by 7:45 AM because admission to the testing room is around 8:00 AM. After that, students are not allowed to enter of leave the testing room once the SAT exam starts.

The SAT test itself will begin at 8:30 AM after the proctor distributes materials and reads instructions to the students. You can time yourself to know how much time you have used and what is remaining.

The test proctor will announce the remaining time during each section. The first announcement usually comes at the halfway point of the section, while the second time announcement occurs when you have five minutes remaining. The SAT test will end between 11:40 AM and 12:45 PM depending on whether you take the optional written essay section or not.

If you are late to your testing date and you aren’t allowed to enter the testing room, you can reschedule your test instead of re-registering. This will save you some registration fees and extra testing costs.

Strategies on How to Pace Yourself During the SAT Test Times

Part of the strategy to do well in the SAT is managing your time well and understanding how much time you should spend on each question. On average, you will have around one minute and ten seconds per question. However, the difficulty of the questions differs, and some are easier to attempt, and some may require more time.

Here is a breakdown of the SAT test sections showing how much time you have per SAT question:

SAT Test SectionSAT Time per Question
Reading75 seconds
Writing & Language47 seconds
Math (Without Calculator)75 seconds
Math (With Calculator)76 seconds

Practice pacing yourself – Work on pacing yourself with practice tests. This way, you will be able to know how long it will take you to answer a question and determine if a minute has passed or not. Your stamina is important, as two of the sections are almost an hour long. This requires you to move quickly through the questions.

Remember, the total time given includes the time you will need to read the passages in the Reading and Writing sections. Avoid spending too much time at the beginning of the test and not leaving adequate time for the last part. Try not to spend too much time reading, re-reading, and searching in the passages for answers. Read it, absorb it, and answer the questions.

On the reading section, the passages are between 500-750 words each, with 10-12 questions per passage. Since you have 65 minutes to read and answer questions, each passage should take around 12 minutes each for the five passages.

For the writing and language test, the four passages will be between 400-450 words long, and you should spend at most eight minutes per passage, with your goal being the completion of all passages and questions.

Most importantly, you can answer questions as you read since the questions will be alongside the passage. Starting by reading the passage first and answering questions later will waste much of your time.

For the math section, you’ll only have approximately 75 seconds to read the problem, make the calculation, and answer the question. This in not a lot of time. Practice reading and analyzing story/word problems before your test date.

The most time consuming part of the math section is not making the calculations contrary to popular belief. It’s reading and understanding the questions/problems.

SAT Time Management Tips & Question Answering Strategies

Practice taking notes – Similarly, in the Reading section, it is important to take notes as you read when reading a passage. Underline main points in each paragraph, and although it might seem like wasting time, in the end, it will save valuable time.

Develop a note-taking strategy before the test day. This will help you answer questions, especially when a question doesn’t point where exactly in the passage to look.

Answer the easiest questions first – To ensure you stay on pace, always start with the easier questions before moving to the challenging questions that might require more time. Allocate your time by attempting easy questions first, as this will save valuable time that you will use to tackle the hard questions that require more time.

If you have spend too much time reading and re-reading questions, you will run out of time to finish. If you can get the question on the first try, mark it, guess, and move on.

Don’t double check your answers mid-test – You should try to leave time at the end of the test to check your answers for each section. This means spending less time per question and not going back to previous questions in the middle of the test. Second guessing yourself is a total time killer.

Once you answer a question, forget about it and move on. Make the question if you are really concerned about it and if you have time left at the end, you can revisit it.

Guess answers you don’t know – Another SAT testing tip that helps eliminate wasting time is to guess answers to challenging questions you don’t understand. It’s important to note that SAT doesn’t penalize students for giving wrong answers. Therefore, you can boost your score slightly if you guess, especially when running out of time. Just get an answer on the page!

Eliminate wrong answers – If you don’t know which answer is correct, you can start by eliminating the answers that don’t appear to be correct. You can also eliminate the answers that are very similar. This gives you better odds of guessing the correct answer.

Use a watch – Your watch will help you manage your time, but you should be aware that there are restrictions on the devices that you can come with on the test day. Notably, devices that can record, receive, transmit, or playback content are not allowed. Smartwatches are listed among the materials prohibited to carry to the exam.

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