The widely accepted kinetic proofreading theory proposes that rapid TCR dissociation from a peptide/MHC ligand allows for stimulation of early but not late T cell activation events, explaining why low-affinity TCR ligands are poor agonists. We identified a low-affinity TCR ligand which stimulated late T cell responses but, contrary to predictions from kinetic proofreading, inefficiently induced early activation events. Furthermore, responses induced by this ligand were kinetically delayed compared to its high-affinity counterpart. Using peptide/MHC tetramers, we showed that activation characteristics could be dissociated from TCR occupancy by the peptide/MHC ligands. Our data argue that T cell responses are triggered by a cumulative signal which is reached at different time points for different TCR ligands.