How Long is the SAT with Essay in 2020?

The time-sensitive nature of the SAT can bring out your worst habits as a test-taker. It’s hard to focus and take the time you need when you feel the pressure of only having a minute to answer each question. It’s important to know how long the test lasts and how long you get with each section. This will give you a better idea of how to pace yourself and get through with time to spare.

How Long is the SAT?

All in all the SAT takes around 3 hours to complete (3 hours and 15 minutes with breaks). The test will take longer if you choose to do the essay as well. The essay is optional but adds another 50 minutes or so to the test, bringing it up to 3 hours and 50 minutes (or 4 hours and 5 minutes with the break).

How Long Does Each Section Take?

The three hours of the SAT are split into individual sections. Here’s how it all breaks down, including how long you have and how many questions are included in each section;


The test starts with a reading section. This section includes 52 questions and you have 65 minutes to complete it.

Writing and Language

The next section is on writing and language. You have 35 minutes to answer 44 questions. With less than one minute per question it’s important to pace yourself here.


The third section is the math section. This section is a bit more forgiving as you get 58 questions across 80 minutes.

Optional Essay

Last but not least, there’s the optional essay section. The essay involves just one question and you are given 50 minutes to write the best essay possible on the question.

It all adds up to a total of 154 questions (and 1 essay question) spread across 180 minutes (or 230 minutes with the essay).

How to Pace Yourself in the SAT?

Are you prepared to take the SAT? One of the most common mistakes people make with the SAT is to spend too long on the hard questions and not enough on the easy ones. It sounds like a good approach on paper, but rushing those easy questions makes you more liable to messing up. You should always take your time. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

  • Slow Down to Score More

Remember that your score is based on how many questions you get right, not how many questions you answer. You could get a higher score by taking your time and missing some questions.

  • Practice With the Real Thing

Time yourself when taking a mock test as if you were taking the real thing. Get a good feeling for how long each section will really last so you get a better feeling for it on the real test day. Knowing what to expect will make you less nervous.

  • Don’t Sweat the Tough Ones

Don’t get stuck on hard questions. Don’t let yourself be trapped by thoughts of completing them. There’s no shame in moving on to another question and coming back later.

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