How Long is the SAT?

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It doesn’t matter how prepared you are or how much you love bubbling in answer sheets with a freshly sharpened number 2 pencil: the SAT is a long, exhausting test for everyone.

Test Day: The Test Center’s Process for the SAT is Long and Involved

You’ll need to arrive at the test center no later than 7:45 AM, as that’s when doors open. Most tutors and counselors suggest you show up even earlier than that depending on what transportation is like in your area because you only have a fifteen-minute window to get to your seat.

Test center doors close at 8:00 AM per College Board rules, so, again, you want to make sure you’re in line with everything you need (ticket, ID, calculator, snacks, no cell phone) well before then.

They won’t let you in late, even if they’re only reading instructions.

Because proctors have varying levels of experience and they’re trained to be methodical, sometimes actually starting the SAT takes a long time–somewhere between another 30 to 60 minutes to get going after the doors are closed.

At this point, it may be close to 9 AM. Then you have to take the SAT itself.

The Testing Part of the SAT Takes a Long Time, Too

The SAT includes the same sections, always administered in the same order on test day.

  • 65-minute Reading Test
    • 10-minute break
  • 35-minute Writing and Language Test
  • 25-minute Math Test – No Calculator
    • 5-minute break
  • 55-minute Math Test – Calculator
    • 2-minute stretch or exit break
  • 50-minute OPTIONAL Essay

If you’re the type of person who needs to know exactly how long the SAT is, you’re looking at a grand total of

  • 3 hours 15 minutes without the Essay or
  • 4 hours 7 minutes with the optional Essay.

That makes pickup time after the SAT roughly 1:00 PM if you’re writing the Essay and noon if you’re not.

Knowing pick-up time ahead is important if you don’t use public transportation because, again, you won’t have your phone. If you are seen using a phone at any time during the testing or if it ever makes a sound–even a vibration, even during the breaks–your scores will be canceled.

The Breaks on the SAT are Not Long At All

You only have two bathroom and/or snack breaks: the ten-minute and five-minute breaks after Reading and Math–No Calculator sections, respectively. The proctors will be strict about this and, since you won’t have your phone with you, you should wear a watch if you have one.

Don’t be late to return to the testing room, and make sure you have your ticket and ID.

Meanwhile, I cannot underscore enough how important it is to bring some sort of a protein bar or snack in your pocket to eat during the break. Brains need calories!

How long is the SAT?

How Long Is the SAT with Extra Time Accommodations?

It’s extremely common for students from all sorts of backgrounds to qualify for extra time accommodations, which drastically change how long the SAT is. Extra time is awarded through a lengthy application process involving formal educational and psychological evaluations and your school’s participation.

Extra time on the SAT is approved for a wide variety of diagnoses, what the College Board considers “documented disabilities,” but these encompass all sorts of things students may have going on. The list may include unspecified learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia, processing issues, and vision issues, among other things.

Your school guidance counselor is the person who formally applies to the College Board for extra time on your behalf; you can no longer submit your own paperwork, and you’ll need to show that you already receive extra time in school.

College Board authorities review your application and then decide not only if you qualify for extra time but how much extra time you have. They truly decide on a case-by-case basis how long the SAT will be for you personally.

So how long is the SAT once you get extra time?

Most students with accommodations receive fifty percent additional time, which means the SAT is 4 ½ hours long without the essay and the SAT is 5 ¾ hours long with the essay. These students are tested at the same test centers as students taking the SAT in standard time, but they’ll be in a separate room so there is no confusion or distraction.

According to the guidelines, the breaks even with accommodations should be the same ten and five-minute increments, and students are required to stay in the classroom even if they’ve completed a section well ahead of time.

What does this mean for you? The SAT is so long with extra time accommodations that you truly don’t want the extra time unless you genuinely need it.

Some students receive double time for the test, but once accommodations grow to that scale the student takes the test over the course of two days and the test is scheduled directly with your school.

Ways To Be Ready for The Length of the SAT

Remember, the SAT is a marathon, not a sprint, and, as with any race, there are ways you can be prepared for how long the SAT is.

Ahead of time:

  • Practice taking full-length tests several times.
  • Study in extended blocks of time to get accustomed to staying focused.

On test day:

  • Arrive for the test well-rested–get good sleep for two nights before the test.
  • Bring a low-sugar, high protein snack to eat during your break.
  • Be patient. If you know the circumstances will be tedious and exhausting, it’s easy to keep your cool and do your best work.

Good luck!