A Simple Guide: How Long is the SAT

Mar 19, 2021

The SAT may seem like it lasts forever for some students, but the exam lasts three hours.

That three hour doesn't include one 10-minute break and one five-minute break. According to experts say, one should manage time in each section, which is the key to earning a high score.

Don't you ever think the clock is your enemy; you need to know how to work it 

Preparing for the SAT isn’t just about practicing math problems and passage reading—it's also a drill in timing and pacing. The SAT’s SAT’s total length and its challenging and complicated content can make it an intimidating challenge.

Go through our comprehensive guide to the SAT’s length, individual section times, and section organizing. Besides, learn how to deal with fatigue and lethargy during the test.

Comprehensive Guide: SAT Test Length

The SAT is three hours long in total, excluding the optional essay and breaks. With the optional essay, the total test time increases to three hours and 50 minutes.

Here's an outline of the SAT test length:

SAT Test Length

The Math section is the only section separated into two pieces: a No Calculator and a Calculator section. Altogether, you'll get 58 questions and 80 minutes for Math.

In total, you will find three breaks (only two if you're not taking the optional Essay):

  • A 10-minute break after the Reading part but before the Writing and Language part
  • A five-minute break after the Math (No-Calculator) part but before the Math (Calculator) part
  • A short two-minute break after the Math Calculator section (only if you are staying for the Essay section, otherwise, you are done and may leave!)

SAT: The Long and Intense Test

The SAT is an extreme test—more than four hours, from check-in to the end (if you're taking the essay)! Yet, you will feel as though it moves quickly because of the vast number of questions you have to answer in each section.

Here is a rundown of the number of questions you'll have on each SAT section and the estimated time you'll have to answer each question:

SAT length time per Question

Your rough time per question is ideally more than a minute, but the actual SAT, things get a little more complicated.

Remember, it is essential to move through more straightforward questions more quickly and keep more time for more challenging problems.

Secondly, if you want to leave time at the end of a section to examine your answers, you have to give each question less time. Remember that you will also have to spend some time reading the Reading and Writing sections’ passages.

Also, remember that mental stamina is crucial. Earlier, the old SAT broke up the test into ten small sections. In the current SAT, you have to take up each subject in a large chunk which is much more complicated and exhausting . 2 out of 4 sections are about an hour long. So not only do you have to move quickly from one question to another, but you also need to maintain your test-taking speed for an extended period. Building that kind of mental endurance and focus takes a fair amount of practice!

3 Important Tips To Prepare for the SAT Exam

These tips will help you feel prepared for test day and teach you how to stay focused during the exam.

1. Practice full-length SAT Test

The best way to prepare for the timing and improve your mental stamina is to take full-length, strictly timed practice tests. This way, you can get used to long stretches of testing, your mind will create muscle memory, and you won’t get tired quickly in the actual SAT. You will get to use SAT’s format and time expectations.

Ensure you're using official practice tests (i.e., the one created by the College Board). Don't rely on old practice tests because these differ a lot from the current SAT structure.

It is essential as you take your test, time yourself as you'll be timed on the actual SAT. This means no giving yourself extra time on a particular section and no skipping ahead if you finish one early! The best way to practice the test is to follow the table I’ve mentioned above, the necessary breaks.

2. Don’t Get Stuck on the Tough Questions

Don’t let yourself entrap by the tricky or time-consuming questions. Stop your thoughts which says, “But I’ve already spent so much time practicing on this question . . .  I know I can finish it!” If you’re confused or running short on time, just guess and move on. Learn more SAT tips for completing questions out of order. 

3. Time Yourself on Practice Sections 

As you prepare for the different SAT sections, make sure at regular intervals to take an entire practice section with only the time you're given on the test.

When you take practice tests, time yourself, you will be timed on the real SAT in the same way. Develop the sense of time and understand how long 35 minutes is, for instance, and how much time you can spend on cracking difficult problems. If you know ahead of time what to expect, you won’t be as tensed, and you can give your test with total clarity and calmness.

Summing Up

Want to know in detail about SAT? Check out our Ultimate for the year 2021-2022 

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