There’s a few ways to answer this question. Let’s first start with the very polite, “I’m taking the test in a few months, and I just want to know how long I’ll be stuck at the testing center for.”
What time does the SAT end?
Short answer: You should expect to stay there until around 12:00 PM if you don’t plan on writing the essay, around 1:00 PM if you do. You should read this post if you want to know all the details about what test day is like.
However, you should be a little flexible with your time. Maybe your proctor is a pro at this kind of thing, and knows how to assign seats, hand out forms, and do all kinds of proctor-things very efficiently, so you’re out right on time. Maybe your proctor is doing it for the first time and flubs reading some instructions, or ends up being a little more lenient with when breaks end. These little things can add up, so you might be out around 1:30 PM.
Having an inexperienced proctor is an unlikely scenario, but you should plan on it anyway. If you want to make plans, make them with the expectation that you’ll be leaving the test center around 1:30 PM. Adjust accordingly if you don’t plan on taking the essay. But you really should just go ahead and write the SAT essay.
What time does the ACT end?
Short answer: You should expect to stay there until 12:00 PM if you don’t plan on writing the essay, around 1:00 PM if you do. You should read this post on what time the ACT starts if you want to know all the details about what test day is like.
Yes, I did pretty much just copy/paste that paragraph, but everything that’s said about the SAT pretty much applies to the ACT. They test you on different topics, but the overall structure of both tests is very similar. You have your multiple choice questions for the first 3 hours, with breaks, and then an optional essay at the end.
You should also plan on having an inexperienced proctor if you want to make plans for the rest of that day, like we did above.
What if I qualify for extended time? When will the test end then?
On the SAT: Depending on the sections that you requested extra time on, add that amount to the test. If you requested 50% extra time on all sections of the test, expect to be there 4 hours and 30 minutes if you don’t plan on writing the essay, 5 hours and 45 minutes if you do.
On the ACT: The ACT is interesting in that you get one block of extended time to spend on all the sections, including the essay. If you requested 50% extra time, you will get just over an extra 1 hour 45 minutes to spend as you will. You could choose to spend only 10 more minutes on the math section, but an hour on the reading passages. You do whatever you feel you need to do.
Okay, but when does it END? WHEN DOES IT END, JON?!?!
Standardized testing can be like a dark tunnel with no end. You spend months preparing, and hours taking both the practice test and real test. But maybe something didn’t sit right when you were taking the test, and you immediately know that you could do a lot better. Like 100 points better on the SAT. Or 3 points better on the ACT. So you gear up for another round of prep. Schedule a retest whenever you can and continue practicing.
However, if it’s June of your junior year and you want to re-test, be cautious. The regular testing season is over, and the next exam will be either September or October of your senior year. College applications need to be sent in January or February, possibly even early November if you plan on applying early decision. If you’re going to retake the ACT or SAT, make sure you do it by the beginning of your senior year, no later than early October. You don’t want test prep to interfere with keeping up your GPA or writing a strong college essay.