Kate Sundquist 4 min read 11th Grade, SAT Info and Tips

How Long Does the SAT Take?

Is your SAT score enough to get you into your dream school?

Our free chancing engine takes into consideration your SAT score, in addition to other profile factors, such as GPA and extracurriculars. Create a free account to discover your chances at hundreds of different schools.

When it comes to the SAT, few factors are as important as time, in every step along the way. From carefully scheduled prep work to pacing yourself in each section of the test, you’ll be paying a lot of attention to time as it pertains to your SAT. You’ll even need to consider the exact timing of your test date, in order to ensure you’re there when you need to be without any hassles.


Don’t miss this post to learn more about how long the SAT takes, what time it starts, and when to arrive at the SAT testing center.

What Time Do I Need to Arrive for the SAT?

Punctuality is a necessity when it comes to SAT day. If you arrive late, you won’t be allowed in, so you need to know exactly when the cutoff is.


The good news is that the SAT is always administered at the same local time, so you can always expect to have the same check-in time, no matter what time zone you’re in. The CollegeBoard recommends that you arrive at your testing center no later than 7:45AM.


It’s a better idea to get there even earlier, though, to account for any lines or registration snafus. We recommend that you aim to be there by 7:30 to avoid any last minute rushes, which might lead to anxiety. To learn more about test taking anxiety and how you can beat it, check out our post 10 Ways to Overcome Test Taking Anxiety. Things do come up however, so just know that doors to testing rooms close at 8:00AM.


What Time Does the SAT Start?


The exact time that you begin taking your SAT is never determined in advance. Instead, it varies according to how long it takes each testing center to complete registration, seat students, and distribute testing materials.


Most SATs begin between 8:30-9:00AM. Once testing has begun, students will no longer be admitted.

Discover how your SAT score affects your chances

As part of our free guidance platform, our Admissions Assessment tells you what schools you need to improve your SAT score for and by how much. Sign up to get started today.

How Long Is Each Section of the SAT?


The first section of the SAT is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test. This section has two components — a Reading test and a Writing and Language test. The Reading test comes first and consists of 52 multiple-choice questions. You will have 65 minutes to complete this section. There is a 10-minute break after the Reading test.


Next comes the Writing and Language test, comprised of 44 multiple-choice questions. You’ll have 25 minutes to complete this section.


When both components of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test are complete, you’ll begin the Math section. The first part of the Math test is Math – No Calculator. In this section you’ll answer 15 multiple-choice questions and five grid-in questions over the course of 25 minutes. There is a five minute break after the Math – No Calculator test.


Next, you’ll complete the Math – With Calculator section, which lasts 55 minutes and consists of 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-in questions.


Once you’ve completed the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test and the Math test, you will be finished with your SAT unless you are writing the optional essay. Students who decide not to complete the essay will be asked to turn in their testing materials at this time. At this point, there will be an informal break of about two minutes while materials are collected. The optional SAT essay then takes place, last for students choosing to complete it. Students are allotted 50 minutes for this section.


What Time Does the SAT End?


There may not be a strict start time, but once testing begins, timing becomes very rigid. The entire test takes three hours to complete without the optional essay, or three hours and 50 minutes with the optional essay.


Remember, the time that the test actually begins can vary slightly from one center to another, and this determines when your test will end. Allowing time for 15 minutes of formal breaks and another couple of minutes for reading directions between each section, you can expect to finish the SAT without essay anytime between 11:45AM and 12:30PM.


If you choose to complete the essay, you’ll stay for another 50 minutes to complete this section. As such, students writing the optional essay can expect to finish up between 12:30 and 1:30PM.



How to Plan Ahead for SAT Test Day


It’s a good idea to let your SAT be your only commitment on testing day to allay any concerns about what time your test ends or any other schedule constraints.


The first step to success on SAT day is getting out of bed. Seriously, though, you need to make sure you have an alarm set and a backup plan, like asking your parents to wake you if you aren’t up by your set time.


To figure out exactly what time this should be, work back from an ideal ETA of 7:30AM at the testing center. Account for the time it will take you to get to the testing center (and allow a buffer for traffic or detours just to be safe), and consider how much time you’ll need to get up, dressed, fed, and out the door.


Packing your backpack can be done the night before your exam. To learn more about what you need to pack, check out our post What Should I Bring to My SAT?. For additional tips about the night before and day of the exam, check out our post How to Prepare for the SAT: A 24-Hour Countdown.

Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.

Want more SAT tips sent to you?

Sign up below and we'll send you expert SAT tips and guides.

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.