The SAT is broken up into three sections consisting of four tests and an optional fourth section, the SAT Essay. The total time for the SAT is 180 minutes, not including breaks, and the SAT Essay is 50 minutes.
- Reading: 65-minute section with 52 questions (75 seconds per question)
- Writing and Language: 35-minute section with 44 questions (about 48 seconds per question)
- Math – No Calculator: 25-minute section with 20 questions (75 seconds per question)
- Math – Calculator: 55-minute section with 38 questions (about 87 seconds per question)
- Essay (optional): 50 minutes, one essay
How Many Breaks Are There During the SAT?
There are several breaks built into the SAT schedule. The first is a 10-minute break between the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test. Later, there’s a 5-minute break between the two Math Tests. Finally, if you’re taking the SAT Essay or if your test has an additional 20-minute section, you’ll get a 2-minute break after the Math Test – Calculator.
When Does the SAT Start?
Test center doors open at 7:45 a.m. on test day and close at 8 a.m. Once students are in their testing room, the proctor will collect all electronic devices and backpacks and check to make sure all calculators are approved for the SAT. Some extra time may be needed so students can add the SAT Essay on-site. After all students are seated, checked in, and ready to begin the test, the proctor distributes the test materials and reads the preliminary instructions. The test begins between 8:30 and 9 a.m., based on how long these steps take.
How Do I Know How Much Time I Have Left?
The proctor will announce during different sections how much time remains. The timing of the first announcement depends on the length of that section but comes at roughly the halfway point. A second warning is given with 5 minutes remaining. Once time is up, you’ll hear that classic line: “Please stop work and put your pencil down.”
The proctor will also post the exact time each test section started and ended, and exactly when the test will resume after any breaks.
Why Was There a 5th Section On the SAT?
Your SAT test may contain an additional 20-minute section. We occasionally pre-test new test items to determine if they should be used on future SAT 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 for students taking both the SAT and the SAT with Essay. If there will be a fifth section, the test center supervisor will share instructions before the test begins.
When Is the SAT Over?
The release time for students taking the SAT will vary slightly by test center or even by room in a test center. The main sections take 3 hours and students are given 15 minutes for breaks, and there’s setup time before the test can begin and time to explain the instructions before each section. Some students will take the SAT Essay, which lasts an additional 50 minutes. Your test may also include a 20-minute extra section to test questions for future SAT tests. Students taking the SAT with no Essay should finish between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m. and students taking the SAT with Essay should finish between 1 and 1:30 p.m.
Once the test is complete and all test booklets turned in, the proctor will return all electronic devices and backpacks.
Other Time Factors
Travel Time – Figure out travel time to your test center, and make sure you can be there before the doors close at 8 a.m. on test day.
Special Accommodations – Students with specific needs due to medical conditions or other circumstances can get either extended or more frequent breaks or extra testing time for each section. If you think you may qualify, you can submit an accommodations request.
Additional SAT Test Day Information
Access more information on what to expect on SAT test day so there won’t be any surprises to delay you or your fellow test takers. Don’t forget to bring a valid ID, No. 2 pencils, and an acceptable calculator – use our test day checklist as a reminder of everything you need. And remember, the proctor will hold your electronic devices until the test is over.
Now you know how long the SAT takes and everything that impact timing on test day. Good luck!