What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What Time Does the SAT Start and End?

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Note: Please look into potential SAT test center closures or makeups due to the Coronavirus.


When it comes to college admissions, few single factors weigh as heavily as the SAT. And when it comes to the SAT, there’s nothing more important than timeliness. You may think that we mean pacing and finishing your work with enough time to review, and though that’s definitely important, that’s not our point. We mean simply showing up on time for your test. 


No amount of prep and practice can do you any good if you’re not on time, and preferably even early, on SAT day. In fact, if you show up late, you will not be allowed to take the test and you will forfeit your registration fee. To learn what time the SAT is and how you can make sure you’re ready for test day, don’t miss this post. 


What Time Is the SAT?


The precise start time for the SAT varies slightly from one testing center to the next, depending on factors like how many students are registered there and how many classrooms are being organized to test. In general though, testing always starts between 8:30-9:00 A.M. local time.


Does this mean that you can show up at 8:29 and get started? Definitely not. You should plan to arrive at the test center by 7:45 A.M. unless your admissions ticket says otherwise. Generally, the doors to the test center will close around 8:00, and once testing begins, no late arrivals are accepted. 


Generally, the SAT is always administered on a Saturday, though some schools offer test dates during the school day. Alternate dates are also available for students whose religion prevents them from testing on a Saturday. For a complete calendar of remaining test dates in 2020 and early 2021, see the table below. 


SAT Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Registration Changes Deadline Anticipated Score Release Date
December 5, 2020 November 5, 2020 November 17, 2020 (for mailed registrations)

November 24, 2020 (for registrations made online or by phone)

November 24, 2020 Est. December 18, 2020
March 13, 2021 February 12, 2021 February 23, 2021 (for mailed registrations)

March 2, 2021 (for registrations made online or by phone)

March 2, 2021 Est. March 26, 2021
May 8, 2021 April 8, 2021 April 20, 2021 (for mailed registrations)

April 27, 2021 (for registrations made online or by phone)

April 27, 2021 Est. May 21, 2021
June 5, 2021 May 6, 2021 May 18, 2021 (for mailed registrations)

May 26, 2021 (for registrations made online or by phone)

May 26, 2021 Est. July 14, 2021


How Long Does the SAT Take?


Lots of students wonder, how long does the SAT last? This seems like it should be a fairly cut and dry answer, and while the time limits for each section are indeed extremely strict, your exact completion time will vary depending on how long it takes your proctor to distribute testing materials, read directions, and start up again after the breaks. 


That being said, the structure of timing of the test itself is exact and closely adhered to by all test centers. Here is how your time will break down on test day:


Section   Total # of Questions   Total Time (Minutes)
Reading 52 65
Writing and Language 44 35
Math No Calculator 20 25
Math Calculator 38 55
Essay (Optional) 1 50
TOTAL 4 hours 7 minutes


What To Bring on Test Day


Now that you know the upcoming test dates, along with when to arrive and how the test is broken down, let’s take a closer look at some of the test day logistics. 


First of all, aside from arriving on time, the next most important thing on test day is arriving with all the necessary things. 


On test day, you’ll need to bring the following:


  • Your admission ticket
  • A photo ID
  • Two no. 2 pencils with erasers
  • An approved calculator
  • Recommended: a watch without an audible alarm (not a smartwatch), extra batteries for your calculator or extra pencils, an extra layer, and water and snacks


There are also a few things you should definitely leave at home. These include:


  • Electronic devices (We know, we know—you can’t leave home without it. But do yourself a favor and leave it in the car. The College Board isn’t messing around with this one and clearly states, “If your device makes noise, or you are seen using it at any time, including during breaks, you may be dismissed immediately, your scores can be canceled, and the device may be confiscated and its contents inspected.”)
  • Highlighters, pens or other writing utensils that aren’t no. 2 pencils
  • Reference tools


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How to Make Sure Your Test Day Goes Smoothly


No matter how much you’ve prepped, there are a few things every student can do on test day to set themselves up for success. 


First of all, go to bed early. We meet lots of students who are tempted to stay up late and study the night before the big test, but this is really counterproductive. The most effective way to study is slow and steady over the long term. Trying to cram information into your brain the night before the test will probably only stress you out, and being tired from staying up late could impact your ability to access the knowledge you already had. Go to bed early to set yourself up for success. 


Before you go to bed, though, be sure to set an alarm, set a backup alarm, and let someone else in the house (preferably someone who will be awake) know what time you intend to get up. Oversleeping on SAT day is a great way to set yourself up for an extremely stressful morning. Set an alarm with plenty of time to spare to allow for unexpected traffic, a stop for gas, or any other detours that could arise. 


Then, on test morning, eat a healthy breakfast. You’ll want to eat something with some protein and fiber in order to sustain energy throughout the morning. Scrambled eggs and whole grain toast, yogurt with granola and berries, or a slice of toast with peanut butter and banana are all great choices. 


Finally, arrive at the testing center just before the doors open. This will give you time to park, make sure you have everything organized and ready to go, and walk in calm and confident. You don’t want to be the crazy last minute arrival sprinting up the steps as the doors swing shut! Instead, start your testing experience off on the right foot by arriving early and checking in right on time. 


For many students, SAT day is one of the most stressful parts of the college admissions experience, but if you plan ahead, anticipate your needs, and arrive with time to spare, you can start your day off on a calm note. 


For help preparing for the SAT, check out our series of Ultimate Guides available here:


The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Reading Test

The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Writing and Language Test

The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Math Test

The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Essay


Want to know how your SAT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

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.