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How to Read the Map on the Census Sample Test

Updated on February 15, 2010
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When it comes to work, Emma's held a surprising number of jobs so let her help you put your best foot forward in your job search.

If you are planning on taking the census jobs test for field employment, you have probably already been working on the census sample test. I talk about this test in my other hub, but one of the questions that has frequently come up in relation to the census practice test is how to read the map.

For many people, the very idea of reading a map causes a brain freeze. You take a look at all those lines and shadings criss-crossing each other and wonder how on earth you can be expected to interpret that.

Well, thankfully the map for the 2010 census employment test isn't nearly as complicated as the kind of map you will find in a road atlas. The map that is used for the test is a simple black & white line drawing featuring several streets. For the sample test, you are only required to answer three questions related to what you see on the map and from what I can remember, that is about the same number of questions that is required on the real test as well.

If you still have trouble working out how to read the map and the instructions on the test, the best thing I can do to show you how it works is to walk you through the instructions and each question and answer one by one. So let's take a look at the map and its description first.

You can click on the map to see it full size.

Census Sample Test Map

Census Test Map
Census Test Map

Reading the Map

The most important information that you'll find in the written description accompanying this map is this: "Where the boundary is a road, the boundary line runs down the center of it."

What this means is that any place where you see that squigly line running down a road, one side of the line is going to be within the boundary and the other side is going to be OUTSIDE the boundary. So basically, if you were walking down the street going from house to house and that street was on a boundary line, you would only visit the houses on ONE side of the street.

Once you understand that, it will be much easier to answer the map-related questions without getting tripped up. Also, it should be noted, on this particular map, every boundary line is on a road. This might not always be the case in a real world setting, but for the test you don't have to worry about the real world.

Here's a few things to note about the Map:

Every Map has a key. In this case, you'll notice that our Census map key only has three items on it. Houses, Schools and the Boundary line. So it's pretty simple. To count houses, all you need to do is count the squares. Schools are marked with a flag on top.

One thing that makes this map different from a road atlas is that it doesn't have a grid. Normally, you find your place on a map by finding the right grid. This map is very simple though so the Census bureau has simply numbered each block and for our map, it only has four blocks.

Now let's go ahead and answer our three map questions. Once again, you can click on the photo to see it full size. But if you have the the census test pdf then it might be easiest to print out that page and follow along. It's page 7 of the PDF.

Census Test Map Questions
Census Test Map Questions

Question 19

So let's take a look at the first map question, #19, that deals with block 3.

How many houses on Decatur Avenue are included in Block 3?

This is where you can get tripped up. In the real world, both sides of the street on Decatur Avenue would obviously be in the same block, but on this map -- they are not. One side of Decatur Avenue is in block 3 and the other side is in block 4.

So the correct answer to this question is 5 Houses, which is answer C on the practice test.

Question 20

Now let's look at the next map question, #20.

How Many Houses would you visit on Shepherd Drive?

If you pay attention to Shepherd Drive and double check the Key to the Map, you'll note that one side of Shepherd Drive is inside your boundary and the other side is not. Also, there is a school within the boundary. So be sure not to accidentally count that as a house.

With these facts in mind, I count eight houses to visit on Shepherd Drive, which is answer D on the sample test.

Question 21

And now for the final map question, #21.

If you went from the corner of Bruce Street and Tannen Road to the corner of Spring Avenue and Suitland Road by the shortest way, how many houses in your assignment would you pass?

The shortest route is to simply walk from Tannen Road to Spring Avenue and then continue until you get to Suitland.

If you use a pencil you can mark the route, which will make it easier to count the number of houses. In this case, you only count the houses you pass directly in front of and that are located inside your boundary and I cound five of them - the two houses on Tannen Road and the three houses on Spring Avenue. This would be answer A on the census practice test.

Now that we've answered these questions step by step, I hope it will help you understand how to read these types of maps. As you can see it is pretty straight forward and probably the biggest barrier most people have to map reading is fear. Fortunately, the map on the census sample exam is a fairly simple one so it makes a good introduction to the concept of map reading.

If you need some more census test help, be sure to check out my new site which will be answering common questions about the census jobs test, the practice test and general questions about working for the Census bureau.

Good luck with the exam!

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