How to Read a Clock

Two Methods:Reading the ClockSample Worksheet

In this day and age, when the digital time is spelled out for us on the tops of our smartphone screens, reading the time on an old mechanical clock can feel like going back into the past. However, you'll still find clocks like these in many different locations. This article will teach you how to brush up on your mechanical clock-reading skills.

Reading the Clock

  1. 1
    Look at the numbers on the perimeter of the clock face. You will usually see 1 of 2 types of clocks:
    • The most common type of clock uses Arabic numerals numbered 1 through 12.
      Image titled Read a Clock Step 1Bullet1
    • Another type of clock uses Roman numerals between I and XII. Even if you aren't sure how to read Roman numerals, you can see that each Roman numeral corresponds to the same position on the clock as the Arabic numerals above. For example, III is at the same spot as 3.
      Image titled Read a Clock Step 1Bullet2
  2. Image titled Read a Clock Step 2
    Locate the shorter hand, which tells you the hour. In this example, the shorter hand is pointed toward the 6, meaning that the time will be between 6:00 and 6:59.
  3. Image titled Read a Clock Step 3
    Find the longer hand, which will point to the minutes. Each of the 12 numbers on the clock face divides a 60-minute hour into 5-minute intervals. Beginning at 12, count 5 minutes for every time the long hand passes a bigger number:
    • 12 = :00
    • 1 = :05
    • 2 = :10
    • 3 = :15
    • 4 = :20
    • 5 = :25
    • 6 = :30
    • 7 = :35
    • 8 = :40
    • 9 = :45
    • 10 = :50
    • 11 = :55
  4. Image titled Read a Clock Step 4
    Use the longer hand to find individual minutes between numbers. The long hand often points to the spaces between numbers. Some clock faces, like the 1 below, have 4 markers between each number.
    • Each marker signifies an additional minute. So if the longer hand points between 12 and 1, at the third marker to the right of the thick 12 marker, then the minute is :03.
    • If you see no markers, make your best guess about where the longer hand is pointing. If it's halfway between the 12 and the 1, for example, you can guess :03.
  5. Image titled Read a Clock Step 5
    Read the time. The shorter hand points toward the 6, and the longer hand points between the third and fourth markers to the right of 12. The time is approximately 6:03.
  6. 6
    Try some additional examples:
    • Example 1: The shorter hand on this clock is slightly past the 10, and the longer hand is on the mark just before the 4. The time is approximately 10:19.
      Image titled Read a Clock Step 6Bullet1
    • Example 2: The shorter hand is past the 3 but not quite to the 4, and the longer hand is just past the dot that corresponds to the number 8. Therefore, the time is approximately 3:41.
      Image titled Read a Clock Step 6Bullet2
    • Example 3: The shorter hand points directly at the 7, and the longer hand points 2 notches past the 2. The time is 7:12.
      Image titled Read a Clock Step 6Bullet3

Sample Worksheet

Clock Worksheet


  • Big hand on 6 and little past 12.
  • If you see another hand that moves quickly around the face of the clock, you are looking at the seconds hand. The seconds hand is read just like the minutes hand; each of the large numbers represents 5 seconds. For example, the second hand points to the 8, then it's 40 seconds past the minute.


  • Don't confuse the long and short hands, even though they may seem backward in your mind. The shorthand is the longer period of time--the hour--and the long hand is the shorter period of time--the minute.

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