How long is the SAT?

Few things boost your chances of a college acceptance letter like a high SAT score. The key to a high SAT score? Knowing exactly what to expect on test day, and knowing how to manage your time. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve coached thousands of students to stellar scores on the SAT, and one of the biggest hurdles many students face initially is dealing with the SAT’s timing. The students that overcame the hurdle universally did so by preparing for the specific timing constraints of the test. 

In this post, we’ll cover the exact timing breakdown of the Digital SAT, including all sections and breaks. We’ll also discuss how the timing changes for students with accommodations. Regardless of your score goal, the first step to preparing for this test is understanding its format. 

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How long is each section of the SAT?
What time is the SAT administered?
Can you leave early if you finish?
Timing accommodations on the SAT
Making sure you’re ready for the SAT’s timing
SAT time saving tips
Next steps

Starting in 2024, the SAT will follow a new but very straightforward format. You’ll take the Reading and Writing section, which is split up into two equal-length “modules,” then you’ll have a ten minute break, then you’ll take the Math section, which is also split up into two equal-length “modules.” 

Here’s a visual breakdown of what the SAT format looks like, with timing information included: 

SAT SectionTiming (minutes)Questions
Reading and Writing Module 13227
Reading and Writing Module 23227
Math Module 13522
Math Module 23522

Including the break, the Digital SAT takes 2 hours and 24 minutes. 

For a full break-down of what’s on each SAT section and how each SAT section is organized, check out our comprehensive overview of the SAT sections here

While preparing for the SAT, don’t forget that the whole process will take a little bit longer. You and the other students will have to get situated in the test center, you’ll be read testing instructions, and you’ll have to wait for the proctor to give you permission to leave. 

If you’re taking the digital SAT at a test center without accommodations, you can know exactly what to expect from the schedule. 

  • 7:45 AM: the testing center opens and students may enter. 
  • 8:00 AM: doors close, and no additional students will be allowed inside. 
  • 8:15 AM to 8:45 AM: testing will begin within this time frame, depending on how long it takes the proctor to get everyone settled in. 

What time you finish depends, really, on you: the maximum duration of the test is 2 hours and 24 minutes, but you may finish earlier!

Yes! It’s a huge difference from past versions of the SAT, but the Digital SAT (2024 and onward) will allow you to leave the center as soon as you’re finished with your test. As soon as you decide you’re finished with a section (meaning the second module of Reading and Writing or the second module of Math), you can hit “Finish” and move on to the next portion of the test. You can even skip the break, if you want (though we don’t recommend it). The test won’t, however, allow you to finish the first module of either section early. 

So, you get a bit of freedom to decide how long you spend on the test, so long as you don’t go over the time limits. 

Because each student takes the test individually on their computer, you no longer have to wait for the other students to finish. As soon as the proctor confirms that you’ve finished the test and collects your scrap paper, you’re free to leave. 

But: it’s still not a good idea to try to finish quickly. Even the best SAT test-takers (including those aiming for a perfect score) make sure to use all of the available time the test provides. There’s simply no reason not to! If you finish a section early, go back and review or redo questions. You never know when you’ll catch a silly mistake and save yourself precious points. 

As with past versions of the SAT, the new Digital SAT offers different accommodations to students with disabilities. Some of these accommodations change the SAT’s timing restrictions. Specifically, the College Board offers accommodations for: 

  • extended time
    • time and a half (+50%)
    • double time (+100%)
    • more than double time (>+100%)
  • Extended/extra breaks 

You can read our guide on how SAT Timing accommodations work here–if you’re eligible for these, they can make a huge difference in your score and performance, so it’s worth checking it. Many students don’t even know that they’re eligible for accommodations!

To apply for these accommodations, you’ll need to have documentation of a learning disability, and you’ll have to go through the College Board’s process for requesting accommodations, which is typically done through your school. You can find the exact process on College Board’s website here. 

What’s the best way to make sure you’re ready for the time pressure of the SAT? While drilling full timed practice tests is definitely important, it’s not the only thing that matters. We recommend using all of the available resources to practice your timing skills in different ways. Ways to practice your SAT timing include:

  • Full timed practice tests in College Board’s BlueBook app. 
  • Individual timed sections, either through the BlueBook app or with the paper tests. 
  • Setting a time limit for individual questions. 

At the end of the day, however, there’s no substitute for an SAT expert who can guide you through their strategies and tips for mastering the SAT timing. Our SAT tutors aren’t just brilliant Ivy League students who got stellar scores on their own SATs: they’re specialists trained to teach you the most effective time-management strategies that’ll work for your specific situation. 

When you contact us, we’ll start an individualized tutor-student matching process, finding the tutor who is the best fit for your needs. 

Below, we’ve collected some of the most helpful time management tips from our top scorers, tailored specifically for the tools and format of the digital SAT. 

  1. Use the bookmark feature!

The Digital SAT now offers the convenient option of flagging or book marking a question. As you work through the SAT, you’ll see a menu that lets you jump back to any of the questions from that same module, and questions you’ve bookmarked will be highlighted. This is an incredible tool: if you find yourself sinking too much time on a question, don’t get stuck on it. Instead, put your best guess, bookmark it, and return if you have time. 

  1. On Reading and Writing, target specific question types. 

On the Reading and Writing section, questions are loosely organized by type: all of the punctuation questions will be in one part of the module, the reading comprehension questions in another, and so on. (You can read a full breakdown of how the SAT’s Reading and Writing section is structured here.)

Some questions are faster to do for others. So, if you’re running low on time, jump to the questions that are easier and quicker! This’ll depend on your own skills: if you’re a whiz at subject-verb agreement or transition word questions, then use your knowledge of the test structure to jump to those questions and quickly rack up as many points as you can. 

  1. On Math, get really familiar with the Desmos calculator.

While you can bring your own calculator to the SAT, the integrated Desmos calculator is incredibly powerful. It’s so useful, in fact, that it can help you quickly crack questions even if you don’t understand the math being tested! 

Even if you’re a math prodigy, the math timing on the SAT can put pressure on you, and doing the calculations themselves can be a huge time-waster if you’re not efficient. In our post on “What’s on SAT Math?” we cover exactly what kinds of questions you’ll see, and how Desmos can be a massive time-saver!

By mastering Desmos, you’ll be amazed at how much valuable time you can save on the SAT Math, which means you’ll have more time to check your answers and tackle harder questions. 

  1. Set timing targets.

Because you know how long the test is and how many questions are on it, you should set timing targets for yourself ahead of test day. But be careful: it’s not as simple as saying that by the point you’ve used up half your time, you should have answered half the questions. 

Different question types take different amounts of time, and it’s totally normal to spend more time on, say, the Reading questions than the Writing questions. So, the best thing to do is to get lots of practice with the digital tests at home, and to develop a timing strategy that allows you to finish the modules with time to spare. 

As you practice at home, check in frequently with the Digital SAT’s clock, and develop goals for yourself. You might say, for example, that you’ll use roughly 20 minutes for the first half of the Reading and Writing questions and 12 minutes for the second half. It all depends on your skills and speed! The key thing is to keep those timing targets in mind on the day of the actual test, and use them to adjust your speed as needed. 

  1. Watch the clock, but don’t obsess over it. 

The Digital SAT offers a built-in countdown clock that shows you how much time you have remaining on your current module. It’s another great tool, and it can help keep you on pace with those timing targets we mentioned above. 

That being said, don’t get so hung up looking at the clock that you get stressed or waste your time on it. You have the option of hiding the clock, and if you know you’re the kind of person who’ll get stressed out watching it, make sure that you do hide it. 

Instead of having it up the whole time, decide on some benchmark points where you’ll check the clock and reevaluate your pacing. For example, you might say that every 10 questions you’ll look at the clock and ensure you’re on track. 

If you don’t get worried by having the running countdown on screen the whole time, then by all means keep it up. But this is something you should figure out well ahead of test day so that you can go in with a concrete time-management plan. 

Understanding the SAT’s timing is the first step, but there’s a lot of work still left to do if you’re serious about attaining your goal score. First, we recommend getting familiar with the Digital SAT’s structure, and then exploring our breakdowns of all the content the SAT tests in Reading, Writing, and Math. 

Most importantly, you should take a diagnostic SAT test to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Our trained tutors can help you review the diagnostic and come up with a targeted test prep plan to ensure that you’re using your time effectively in the lead up to the SAT. 

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Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.