How Long Does the SAT® Exam Take?
High school students who have signed up to take the SAT exam often wonder about the length of the test. Knowing how much time the test takes to complete is important because it allows you to prepare in advance for the test environment. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the exam by taking timed SAT practice tests, it is also good to know what to expect at the testing center on the test day.
What are the Sections of the SAT Test?
The SAT includes a Reading section, a Writing and Language section, two math sections (one that allows calculator use and one that does not), and an optional Essay section. These sections are completed one after the other in the same testing classroom. When you are doing SAT prep, it is a good idea to run your practice tests like the actual SAT exam. By completing your practice tests with a total of 15 minutes of break time, you can physically as well as mentally prepare yourself for the test day.
Timing of the SAT Test
The main sections of the SAT test take 180 minutes. There are 15 minutes of total break time. If you are also taking the SAT Essay, the test will last three hours and 50 minutes including 17 minutes of breaks. If you are taking one of the optional SAT subject tests, they are 60 minutes long. Some test centers hold the subject tests on a different schedule from the general SAT exam.
Breaks During the SAT Test
There are several breaks between the different sections of the SAT standardized test. After the 65-minute Reading section, there is a 10-minute break. The Writing and Language section then begins and lasts for 35 minutes. The Math section, with no calculator, immediately follows. It lasts for 25 minutes and then you get a five-minute break. The last Math section, with a calculator, then begins. It lasts for 55 minutes. If you are writing the optional Essay, you get a two-minute break before that session begins.
Test Center Schedules
The SAT test centers open their doors at 7:45 a.m. on test days. The doors close at 8:00 a.m. If you arrive at 8:01, you will not be permitted to take the test. You must arrive with enough time to check-in and hand over your backpack or personal belongings at the registration desk.
How to Keep Track of How Much Time Remains
When the test starts, the proctor writes the time on a whiteboard at the front of the room. During the test, the proctor will make an announcement at the halfway point of the section. The proctor will make a second warning when five minutes remain during the test session. Test takers will be told to put their pencils down when time is finished. The proctor writes the ending time on the board at the end of the session. Break times are also written on the board.
Optional Test Period
The Educational Testing Service and College Board sometimes add another experimental section onto the test. These are proposed questions that might be used on future tests. They would not count for or against your score. If one of these sessions is included on your test day, the test time is about 20 minutes.
Students with diagnosed learning disabilities may be able to apply for special testing accommodations. Those accommodations may include longer test times or longer breaks. Students must apply for this and have their applications accepted in advance of the test day. You cannot ask for these accommodations upon arriving at the test center.
How the SAT Length Could Affect Your Score
When taking practice tests on your own, consider using a timer to give yourself a realistic idea of what the test will be like. It is a good idea to do at least two practice tests before the actual test day arrives. Your test prep should include ordering the practice test sessions in the same way as they will be held at the testing center. Also, have your breaks the same length as what you will experience on test day. This will help you ensure that you can get a drink of water, stretch your legs, and use the restroom during the short break times you will receive during the SAT testing. By being prepared for the test duration and environment and taking several practice tests under similar conditions, you have a better chance of earning a good SAT score for your college applications.
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