How Long Is The SAT? 2024 Test Duration & Time Management

How Long Is The SAT

The SAT is an incredibly lengthy test, and test day is going to take up a rather big chunk of your time. But, how long is the test? Do you get a different amount of time depending on the test section?

On this page, we are going to answer all of the most burning questions that you may have about the timing of the SAT. We are also going to give you a bit of advice on how to ensure that you get the maximum amount of time.

So, let’s dive right in and answer the first question; how long does the SAT last?

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How Long Is The SAT?

From SAT start to the end of the exam, it is three hours. However, this exam duration does not include the breaks (we will discuss that in a bit more depth soon). Students taking the optional essay SAT question will be sitting in the room for an additional hour.

As you know, or you should know, there are at least three different subject tests on the SAT. You will not be taking all of those at once. You will have breaks between them. Each test takes a slightly different amount of time, and you must understand how this impacts the SAT length.

Reading Section – 65 Minutes

The reading section will be the first part of your scholastic aptitude test. This part of the test lasts for 65 minutes and in that time, you are going to have 52 questions that you need to answer.

This section of the SAT will have you reading passages and then answering questions. This test lasts longer than the other exams so that you have time to absorb the information in the passages.

Writing and Language Section

This is the shortest full section of the SAT. The writing and language test will take 35 minutes. There will be 44 questions that you need to answer, so time management will be critical here.

While there are reading and writing sections here, the bulk of the focus will be on correcting grammar, testing vocabulary, etc. The language test may be short, but you are going to have a ton of questions thrown at you, so you need to plan your time properly. Hopefully, doing your practice tests will give you adequate preparation for this.

Math – No-Calculator Test

The math no calculator SAT subject tests will last for 25 minutes. In that time, you need to answer 20 questions.

Math – Calculator Test

The second math test will have you using a calculator. This is a 55-minute test with 38 questions.

Optional Essay Portion

Some people may take an optional essay section (which will also test their writing and language skills). If you do so, then this is going to take an additional 50 minutes.

Rare: Additional 20-Minute Section

The College Board states that, in rare cases, they may add 20 minutes to the exam. This test section will be where they test new questions and formats for the exam.

It is highly unlikely that you will need to deal with this during the SAT. However, if you do, then the length of the test will increase by 20 minutes.

This 20-minute section can be added to any test section, so you never know when it may appear.

How Do You Know How Much Remaining Time In The SAT?

You must keep tabs on how much time you have left. This is because the SAT timing is pretty tight.

There will be a clock in the room so you can track how much time is left, although you may want to bring a watch along.

In addition to this, the proctor will give three warnings throughout the SAT. This means that they will let you know how much time is left at the following points:

  • At the halfway point
  • Five minutes from the end
  • At the end of the test

At the end of the SAT exam, when you are told it is the end, you need to put your pencils down. You may be penalized if you do not do it as soon as instructed.

How Many Breaks During the SAT?

Yes. You get several breaks during the SAT. How, do bear in mind that this isn’t going to be a huge amount of time. You certainly won’t be able to touch your electronic devices, and you may not even be able to eat something. You will get to use the bathroom and that is pretty much it. Your proctor will let you know when the SAT starts again so make sure that you return from break time on time.

These are your break times:

  • After the reading test, you will get a ten minutes break. This will be your first break.
  • There will be no break after the language section.
  • Between the two math tests, you will get a 5-minute break.
  • If you are taking an optional essay, then you will get a two-minute break before the essay.
  • If you have an extra 20-minute section on the SAT, then there will be a 2-minute break before that starts.

This means that you have two breaks, but these two breaks are going to be very short.

Can You Get Extra Time On The SAT?

One of the big questions people often have when it comes to ‘how long is the SAT?’ is related to whether they can get extra time to answer questions.

The truth is; probably not. The College Board is very strict on who can get extra time. That being said, if you have certain difficulties, including disabilities, then you may be able to ask the College Board to give you extra time to answer questions. In some cases, you won’t get extra time to answer questions, but you will get an additional five-minute break (or more frequent breaks).

While you can ask the College Board directly for the extra time (make sure that you do this well in advance of the test), we suggest that you speak to your school instead. Every school will have a SAT coordinator and they can guide you through the time extension process. They will know what your issues are, and it makes it easier for them to provide the evidence required to the testing board.

When Should You Arrive At The Test Center?

In almost all cases, the SAT will start between 8:30 am and 9:00 am. However, this doesn’t mean that you can turn up at the testing center at the last minute. If you do, then you will be denied access to the testing room. You will have to book another day. So, make sure that you arrive early, hopefully after a filling breakfast because you won’t have much time to eat here!

The test center doors open at 7:45 am. They close at 8:00 am. This means that unless you are through the doors at 8:00 am, you have pretty much no chance of getting in. It is important to note that this is just a guideline, though. The College Board may have test takers arrive at a later time. You will need to look at your admission ticket to know when you should arrive. However, it is almost certainly going to be between 7:45 am and 8:00 am.

The reason why you have to arrive so early on test day is due to the sheer amount of administration that needs to take place before the test can start. For example:

  • Your identity must be verified
  • You will be seated at a specific location. You cannot choose where you sit.
  • The test materials will be distributed.
  • You will be given instructions on the SAT. Just the usual spiel about the timings, how it all works, etc. This is stuff that you should already know since you are reading this page!

When Do You Leave The SAT Testing Center?

This is going to be dependent on how your testing center does things. There are always delays to how everything pans out.

In most cases, you can expect to leave the testing room at around 12:15 pm to 12:30 pm. You cannot leave the testing room until you have been instructed to do so by the test proctor.

If you are doing the optional essay question on test day, then you will be leaving about an hour or so after this. So, you can expect to be done by about 1:30 pm.

While the SAT time can vary (and most of it is going to be dependent on when the test begins), you can normally expect to be out on time. So, if you are arranging transport, then tell the person collecting you to arrive between these times:

  • Normal SAT: 12:15 pm to 12:30 pm
  • SAT with optional essay: 1:30 pm to 1:45 pm.

What Happens If You Finish a SAT Section Early?

Nothing. If you finish early, then you have two options:

  • You can either sit there and do nothing.
  • You can go through and double-check your answers.

We recommend that you do the latter. You cannot leave early if you have completed the SAT. You cannot move on to the next section. You cannot repeat previous sections.

It is highly unlikely that you are going to have much time left over during the three or four tests. If you have, then you will have likely rushed through tough questions and you may have a lot of incorrect answers.

Maximizing Your Time In The SAT Testing Room – Time Management Tips

The SAT isn’t just a test of your knowledge, but it is a test of your time management skills. As you saw a little bit earlier on; this is an incredibly short test. Sure, the tests combined take up to three hours, but you have four tests to do during that time, and they are not that long at all.

This is why we want to give you a few hints and tips for maximizing your time in the SAT testing room.

How Long You Have For Each Exam Section

Let’s start with how long you have for each question. We are sure you could have worked it out from the information that we gave earlier, but let’s try and make things as clear as we possibly can!

Reading Test

The reading test is the lengthiest single part of the exam at 65 minutes, but you have 52 questions to answer in that time. This gives you 75 seconds per question.

However, this doesn’t tell the full story. You have 5 passages to read in the reading test, and each can be up to 700 words!

You must spend no more than 5 minutes reading a single passage. You then have a further 8 minutes to answer any questions associated with that passage. This gives you a little bit under a minute to answer each question. It is a time squeeze, but you should be able to breeze through most of the questions.

Writing ; Language Section

The writing and language section will have four more passages for you to read. Although most of them cap out at 450, so they should be a bit easier to manage than the reading test. Although, you do have a lot less time to get through the test.

You have around 8 minutes to get through each section of this part of the SAT. You should spend around 50% of each text reading and 50% answering questions.

Math No Calculator

Things start getting simpler with this section of the SAT. You have 75 seconds to answer each question, but most can be answered in under a minute.

Math Calculator

You have a whopping 87 seconds to answer each question here but, once again, most questions can be answered in under a minute if you know what you are doing.

Essay Section

You should spend 10 minutes or so planning, with the other 40 minutes dedicated to writing the essay.

Aim For The Easy Questions, Don’t Dwell On The Hard Ones

As you can see, you don’t have that much time to answer any question on the SAT. This means that you don’t have time to dwell on anything.

There will be challenging questions on the SAT. Spend a minute on them, at the most. If you can’t come up with the answer within a minute (perhaps a little longer on the math portion) then move on.

Aim to answer as many questions as you possibly can on the SAT. You may find that the difficulty level on one question is a little bit too high for you. If you move on, then you may be able to answer 4-5 different easy questions. If you don’t move on? You may struggle to finish the test, particularly on the writing section and math section where you are pressed for time.

Use Time At The End To Reread Your Answers

Once you have finished the SAT, if you have some time left over (you should have at least 5-10 minutes for each test), then go back and double-check your answers.

If there are any questions that you struggled with before, then give them a go. See if you can answer them this time.

While there is no need to answer every question on the SAT (the only requirement is that you sit each section) because most questions are going to be multiple choice, even if you do not know the answer you may as well take a guess. Who knows? You may get it right.

The only time where you may struggle to take a guess is in the math section. While some questions are multiple-choice, half of the exam will be a grid-in. This means that your chances of guessing the correct answer are much lower.

Maximize Your Breaks

When you have a break during the SAT, take the time to relax and unwind. It is just a couple of minutes. Take some deep breaths.

This can help your time management in the following sections. If you are too stressed, then you will often find that you are much slower when answering questions. You will second-guess everything.

Leave the room, if you can. Don’t try and cram some extra study in (you are unlikely to have the opportunity anyway).

Go Slow

Some people will always struggle with their time management on the SAT. It can’t be helped. It is a tough exam.

We recommend that if you often struggle, then it is fine to go slow.

Remember, the SAT is all about completing as many questions as you can correctly. If you answer just 50% of the exam and get them all right, then that would be far better than blitzing through and getting just 25% correct because you put no thought into it.

Of course, the idea is that you still try and answer as many questions on the SAT as you can and, of course, get it right. However, we do understand that for some people this is going to be impossible.

Should Your SAT Practice Tests Be Timed?


Whenever you do a practice test during your practice time, then you want to replicate the experience of the SAT as closely as possible. This means that you need to get the timing right (i.e. the entire test should be three hours long).

If you do not time yourself, then you may think that you have more time than you do when you do the SAT. A lot of people do not time themselves during their practice time, and when they head into the SAT testing center, they very quickly start to realize just how little time they have available.

Remember, if you time your SAT practice tests, then you can practice the time management tips that we gave before. The more practice you get at that aspect, the better.

Things You Should Practice To Speed Up Your SAT Completion Times

If you are struggling with finishing your SAT practice tests on time, then there are two things that we suggest that you do here.

Practice Your Skim Reading

The issue that most people have with the SAT is the reading sections. If you are a slow reader, then you are going to struggle to finish on time.

Therefore, you should practice your skim reading skills. Go through various pieces of text (practice SATs are good for this) and see if you can quickly pick out key ideas just by glancing at the text. Use a highlighter for this.

The more you learn to skim-read, the quicker you can get through passages. Remember, you don’t need to read every word. Most words are pointless. You just need to focus on the main ideas.

Learn Your Math Formulas

The math sections are just going to have you using common math formulas. If you know the formulas, then solving all of the equations is going to be dead simple. You can finish the exam with a good 20 minutes to go through your answers.

If you go through regular practice SATs, then you will get a feel for the type of math questions that come up. They will almost always be the same type. Make a note of the formulas and focus on them.

SAT prep classes can also help with this portion. In a class, you will regularly go over the most common formulas. Once you have drilled those formulas into your brain, using them is a breeze.

Conclusion – How Long Is The SAT Test?

The SAT lasts for three hours. It can last around 4 hours if you are doing the optional essay question, or if you are one of the few groups asked to do the twenty-minute extension.

Don’t worry too much about the time. If you have put in enough practice before the SAT, and you have worked on your time management skills, then we are sure that you will be fine. The worst part about the SAT is the anticipation of completing it. You will be out before you know it!

Josh Hutcheson

E-Learning Specialist in Online Programs & Courses Linkedin

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