How long is the SAT test?

Can you really bring a snack to the new SAT? And how long is the test anyway?

How long is the SAT test?

Students want to know: How long is the SAT test and more..?


Immediately after the new SAT in March, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions interviewed nearly 2,000 students at 39 test sites around the country. According to Jennifer Karan, national director of SAT/ACT Programs at Kaplan, "The test was a grueling experience for many students. They had many concerns, and we really want to make sure that students' voices are heard." Next Step Magazine asked Brian O'Reilly, executive director of SAT Information Services at The College Board, to clear the air.


"Why does the test have to be so long?"


Clocking in at 3 hours and 45 minutes (NOT counting breaks), the new marathon SAT test is 70 minutes longer than the general graduate school entrance exam (GRE), 15 minutes longer than the law school admissions exam (LSAT), and 10 minutes longer than the graduate business entrance exam (GMAT)! Only the medical school admissions exam is longer!


"The SAT has become a test of endurance," says Karan. "This is really a challenge for the kids."


O'Reilly responds: "Yes, the SAT is 45 minutes longer than it used to be. Comparisons to other tests are tricky. As for the length of the SAT, you need to ask a certain number of questions on each section to produce a reliable score. Research on what's called speededness (whether the vast majority of test-takers have sufficient time to deal with the material) showed the current timing to be optimal."


"We only had one-minute breaks, while other rooms had longer. Our proctor had us stop after 24 minutes, not 25 minutes."


When asked how long is the SAT test, students reported a "tremendous inconsistency in breaks; they varied from one to five minutes; some even claimed they had a 10-minute break," adds Karan. Students reporting to Next Step also complained of irregularities in section timing.


O'Reilly responds: "The SAT is a standardized test, and there are very stringent rules regarding time. The start time can differ from test center to test center. Start and stop times for each section are strictly enforced. A 25-minute section is supposed to be exactly 25 minutes long. If there is substantial 'mis-timing,' then students would have to retest. Breaks are a more loose. We're strict about when they occur (after sections two, four and six), but less so about duration, recognizing that five minutes may be sufficient for a room of 15 to 20 students, but not for a center where the testing is taking place in the auditorium."


"The College Board said not to bring snacks. But we were starving after four hours."


Just a few months ago, The College Board Web site told students NOT to bring snacks to the new test. "I'm concerned when the students don't eat for a period of five to six hours," comments Karan.


O'Reilly responds: "There was a good deal of confusion about this policy during the March test, so we will be communicating this message to test-takers as well as proctors [for future tests]."


Students can eat a snack during break; they just can't have it out during testing time. Security concerns extend beyond something written on a label or wrapper. Years ago, there was a M&M cheating scheme, where the color of the M&M on the desk indicated the correct answer for each successive question. So no food or drink on the desk during the test.


"What are good test foods?"


How long is the SAT? Long enough to make most students hungry! To keep up your energy, first eat a substantive breakfast. "Kids who have breakfast have better concentration levels and responses to input," says dietician Dalia Perelman of the Camino Medical Group in Sunnyvale, Calif. "A mixed meal with some protein and some carbohydrates would be ideal, such as eggs, toast and fruit or high-fiber cereal and milk."


"For a fast snack, nuts are great; they have protein and keep the brain working," Perelman says. "Fruit, yogurt or granola bars with a good protein, carbohydrate and fat balance can be eaten quickly, yet provide long-term energy."  


Word challenge

The following bLUE words appear in this column. Try matching the words to their meanings.

1. grueling           a. a crafty plan

2. irregularities    b. an endurance contest

3. marathon         c. substantial

4. scheme            d. taxing to the point of exhaustion

5. substantive       e. improper qualities

Answers:   (1)d  (2)e  (3)b (4)a (5)c

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