SAT Time Breakdown With Breaks

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For any student considering to take the SAT, here’s the full SAT time breakdown with breaks that you should use to help your test prep.

Doing well on the SAT will help bolster your college applications and increase your eligibility for a variety of competitive scholarships and academic programs.

While you will obviously want to have a strong understanding of the concepts covered on the test to earn a good score, it is just as important for you to know how to manage your time well on the test.

Like most other standardized tests, the SAT is timed. Even if you know how to solve each and every question on the SAT, you are not going to do well if you are not able to solve these questions in the allotted time.

The first step you need to take to make sure you are ready for the SAT is to familiarize yourself with SAT time constraints. When you know how much time you’ll have on each section, you will be able to estimate how much time you can spend on each question, which will improve your ability to answer questions in the time provided.

If you plan on taking the SAT, here’s the full SAT time breakdown with breaks that you should use to help your test prep.

In addition to how the test timing breaks down, here are some additional SAT test day tips you should know before signing up.

SAT TIME BREAKDOWN WITH BREAKS OVERVIEW

The SAT is divided into three main sections consisting of four tests. Some students will receive an additional 20-minute experimental section after the final Math section. This fifth test is randomly assigned to students who take the SAT, and you will not know whether you will need to complete this section until test day.

There is no longer an optional Essay section on the test, so your SAT administration will conclude when you finish these test sections.

The SAT’s total length (minus breaks) is 180 minutes. Including the two breaks (one ten-minute break and one five-minute break) the test is 3 hours and 15 minutes long.

If you are assigned an experimental section, plan to add an additional 22 minutes to your test administration (20 minutes of testing and an additional two-minute stretch break)

SAT TIME BREAKDOWN PER SECTION

The 3 hours you spend taking the test are broken into four main test sections (with a potential fifth section of experimental questions)

  • Reading Section: 65-minutes allotted to answer 52 questions (75 seconds per question)
  • Writing and Language Section: 35-minutes allotted to answer 44 questions (48 seconds per question)
  • Math (No Calculator) Section: 25-minutes allotted to answer 20 questions (75 seconds per question)
  • Math (Calculator) Section: 55-minutes allotted to answer 38 questions (about 87 seconds per question)
  • Experimental section: 20-minutes; number of questions will vary

HOW MANY BREAKS DO STUDENTS RECEIVE?

Every SAT test administration has several breaks scheduled into the allotted time.

The first break is a 10-minute rest between the Reading section Test and the Writing and Language section Test. Later on, there’s a 5-minute break between the different Math section tests.

For most students, that’s it. However, if your test has an additional 20-minute section, you’ll get a 2-minute break after the Math Test with Calculator.

WHAT TIME DOES THE TEST START?

For every administration date, the test center doors open at 7:45 a.m. and close at 8 a.m.

Once test-takers arrive in the testing room, the designated proctor collects all electronic devices and backpacks. Every calculator is also checked to make sure it is an approved model.

After everyone is checked in, seated, and ready to start, the proctor distributes the test materials and reads the instructions. The test begins between 8:30 and 9 a.m., depending on how long these previous steps take to finish.

It is best to arrive early so that you can find your test room and settle in to take the test without panicking about being late.

DETAILS FOR WHEN TESTING ACTUALLY BEGINS

First, you will wait until you are assigned your seat. You will not be able to choose your seat, so you will likely have to wait outside of your test room until the proctor checks your ID and admission materials and gives you a seat.

Here’s what happens next:

  • The proctor will read all instructions from the official manual and answer any questions about procedure alone.
  • The proctor will also tell you when to begin and finish working on each test section.
  • You will then work on each test section only in the allotted time.
  • You cannot go back to a section’s questions once that specific section has finished.
  • Pause if you finish a section early. You cannot start the next section if you finish the current one early.
  • Do not skip sections. Potential penalties for doing so include score cancellation, delays, or both.
  • Once the test is finished, the proctor will collect and count all test books to make sure everything is received before dismissing you.

BREAK TIPS TO REMEMBER

Remember, your two main breaks are the only times you’re allowed to eat and drink.

  • Always keep your ID and admission ticket with you. They’ll be checked every time you enter the testing room.
  • Your test book, answer sheet, and calculator must remain on your desk during your breaks.
  • Don’t use this time to power up any devices, like cell phones. The penalty for doing so is score cancellation.
  • You may only eat in designated areas. Arrive at the test administration early so you can determine where these areas are ahead of time.

If you have an additional fifth section, you will get a 2-minute stretch break. During this break, you are not allowed to leave the room, eat, or drink.

HOW TO KNOW HOW MUCH TIME IS LEFT

The proctor will announce how much time is left for every section.

The first announcement’s timing depends on each section’s length, but it normally comes at the halfway point. The final warning is given with 5 minutes before the section ends.

Once time is up, you’ll be told: “Please stop work and put your pencil down.” The proctor will also post exact times when each test section starts and stops, as well as when testing resumes after scheduled breaks.

WHEN DOES THE SAT END?

The release time varies slightly by each testing center.

Remember, the main sections take 3 hours and students receive 15 minutes in breaks to use. There’s also setup time and instructions before each section begins and the potential for an additional fifth section.

Students should finish between 12:15 and 1:00 p.m.

TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS

Now that you know the time breakdown of the SAT, it will be up to you to learn how to best manage this time so that you can earn an impressive SAT score.

Here are some time management tips that will help you navigate the test with ease:

PRACTICE USING SAT TIMING

When you take practice tests to prepare for the SAT, take them under the actual conditions that you will be given on test day.

Sure, you may be able to answer all of the Reading questions correctly with unlimited time, but it is critical that you are able to see how well you will do in only 65 minutes.

This will help you learn to make adjustments so that you are able to answer all of the questions in a timely manner. Maybe you need to skim the Reading passages. Maybe you need to use your calculator less on the Math section. Whatever strategy you need to adopt to meet the time limit will only become apparent when you have practiced using these time limits prior to test day.

DON’T SPEND TOO LONG ON TOUGH QUESTIONS

Remember, you only have about 75 seconds per question for the Reading section, 48 seconds per question for the Writing and Language section, 75 seconds per question for the Math (No Calculator) section, and 87 seconds per question for the Math (Calculator section).

If you are stuck on a particularly tough question, do not spend more than a minute trying to figure out the answer. Make an educated or blind guess, flag it as a question to return to if you have more time at the end of the test section, and move on to the next question.

SKIP AROUND

As long as you have a good system in place for flagging questions that you don’t answer right away, and you are careful to mark your answers in the correct spot on your answer sheet, you should feel free to skip around to different questions within a test section.

The questions are not in order from easiest to hardest, so there is a good chance that there will be many questions that are easier and less time consuming near the middle and end of any given section. Answer these questions that you have a greater chance of answering correctly first, and then return to the tougher questions with your leftover time.

WEAR A WATCH

Although your test room is required to have a clock and your proctor will post the start and stop times for each section, it is best to wear a watch so that you can track your time yourself. The last thing you want is to be positioned in a way that requires you to turn your head and crane your neck to see the time.

If you do choose to wear a watch, make sure that it is not a smartwatch or a watch that  can be used to “record, transmit, receive, or play back audio, photographic, text, or video content.”

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