Initial setting time is that time period between the time water is added to cement and time at which 1 mm square section needle fails to penetrate the cement paste, placed in the Vicat’s mould 5 mm to 7 mm from the bottom of the mould.

Final setting time is that time period between the time water is added to cement and the time at which 1 mm needle makes an impression on the paste in the mould but 5 mm attachment does not make any impression.


Measuring instruments

Vicat apparatus Should be made as per IS:5513  —
Balance 1000 g 1 g
Measuring cylinder 100 ml 1 ml
Stop watch 30 min. 0.2 sec

Other apparatus

Glass plate, enamel tray, trowel
Vicat Apparatus
Vicat Apparatus

Environmental Condition

Temperature 27 ± 20 C
Relative Humidity 90 % (min)


(a)Test Block Preparation

  1. Before commencing setting time test, do the consistency test to obtain the water required to give the paste normal consistency (P).
  2. Take 400 g of cement and prepare a neat cement paste with 0.85P of water by weight of cement.
  3. Gauge time is kept between 3 to 5 minutes. Start the stop watch at the instant when the water is added to the cement. Record this time (t1).
  4. Fill the Vicat mould, resting on a glass plate, with the cement paste gauged as above. Fill the mould completely and smooth off the surface of the paste making it level with the top of the mould. The cement block thus prepared is called test block.

(b)Initial Setting Time

  1. Place the test block confined in the mould and resting on the non-porous plate, under the rod bearing the needle.
  2. Lower the needle gently until it comes in contact with the surface of test block and quick release, allowing it to penetrate into the test block.
  3. In the beginning the needle completely pierces the test block. Repeat this procedure i.e. quickly releasing the needle after every 2 minutes till the needle fails to pierce the block for about 5 mm measured from the bottom of the mould. Note this time (t2).

(c)Final Setting Time

  1. For determining the final setting time, replace the needle of the Vicat’s apparatus by the needle with an annular attachment.
  2. The cement is considered finally set when upon applying the final setting needle gently to the surface of the test block; the needle makes an impression thereon, while the attachment fails to do so. Record this time (t3).


Initial setting time=t2-t1

Final setting time=t3-t1,


t1=Time at which water is first added to cement

t2=Time when needle fails to penetrate 5 mm to 7 mm from bottom of the mould

t3=Time when the needle makes an impression but the attachment fails to do so.


  • Release the initial and final setting time needles gently.
  • The experiment should be performed away from vibration and other disturbances.
  • Needle should be cleaned every time it is used.
  • Position of the mould should be shifted slightly after each penetration to avoid penetration at the same place.
  • Test should be performed at the specified environmental conditions.

Standard Specification

Type/Name Of Cement Referenced Indian Stanadard Initial Setting Time, mints (min.) Final Setting Time, mints (max.)
OPC(33) IS:269 30 600
OPC(43) IS:8112 30 600
OPC(53) IS:12269 30 600
SRC IS:12330 30 600
PPC IS:1489,P1 30 600
RHPC IS:8041 30 600
PSC IS:455 30 600
High alumina IS:6452 30 600
Super sulphated IS:6909 30 600
Low heat IS:12600 60 600
Masonry cement IS:3466 90 1440
IRS-T-40 Railway 60 600

Technical Discussion

  • It is essential that cement set neither too rapidly nor too slowly. In the first case there might be insufficient time to transport and place the concrete before it becomes too rigid. In the second case too long a setting period tends to slow up the work unduly, also it might postpone the actual use of the structure because of inadequate strength at the desired age.
  • Setting should not be confused with hardening, which refers to the gain in mechanical strength after the certain degree of resistance to the penetration of a special attachment pressed into it.
  • Setting time is the time required for stiffening of cement paste to a defined consistency.
  • Indirectly related to the initial chemical reaction of cement with water to form aluminum-silicate compound.
  • Initial setting time is the time when the paste starts losing its plasticity.
  • Initial setting time test is important for transportation, placing and compaction of cement concrete.
  • Initial setting time duration is required to delay the process of hydration or hardening.
  • Final setting time is the time when the paste completely loses its plasticity.
  • It is the time taken for the cement paste or cement concrete to harden sufficiently and attain the shape of the mould in which it is cast.
  • Determination of final setting time period facilitates safe removal of scaffolding or form.
  • During this period of time primary chemical reaction of cement with water is almost completed.

Test Standard Reference

  • IS:4031(Part 5):1988-Methods of physical tests for hydraulic cement (Determination of initial and final setting times)

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