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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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    • profile image

      Pam Samuels 7 years ago

      Thank you to the person who started the helpline.

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      Flamer 7 years ago

      Well Kris thank you for being the one to be smart enough to read a map, everybody can't be like you and plus they don't tell you which side of the boundary your supposed to look at. They are just squiggly lines, It could have meant the outside border for gods sakes... and it's not like we look at maps very often. More older adults maybe a different stories but people on this site sound like there young so STFU.

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      Jack 7 years ago

      Yeah man, i was totally confused about question 21, and I'm actually glad I was, because I was reading the map wrong, and now I know how to read it. Thanks, this helps a lot.

    • profile image

      Cricket 7 years ago

      This is very helpful in learning how to read the map.thank-you

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      sheila gillespie 7 years ago

      thank you

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      ellen 7 years ago

      Thanks. That issue with #21 was handled by all of you. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      puddle jumper 7 years ago

      thank u for helping me understand the map a little more was totally lost for awhile

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      Carol 7 years ago

      I'm looking for another practice test.

      I have done the practice test twice now, and doing it again isn't very effective. I've already done the practice test 2x, doing it again isn't very helpful - I already know the answers, so it isn't helping me.

      Are there any additional practice tests out there? It would be great if there were.


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      Maria  7 years ago

      Gracias! All info. provided was great. I'm not very good with maps, but got all answers right before reading your comments. You couldn't explain the map questions any better. Q.18 was tricky, but easier if you place the numbers in the corresponding blocks.

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      jessica 7 years ago

      no, we are not allowed to use a calculator.

    • profile image

      irene 7 years ago

      can someone tell me if we can use calculator ?

    • profile image

      rosario 7 years ago

      good help for everybody thankyou god bless all

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      carla 7 years ago

      the answer to 26 is A because a county is the largest. The county is then divided into tracts. After the tracts are divided into blocks, they form AA. the blocks are still smaller than the AA because it takes several blocks to make an AA. it tricked me up to!

      Oh and for the wavy line boundary, just imagine you are driving a car. You would drive up a road on the right side, and down the road on the left. I just imagine the way i would walk/drive down the road.

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      Brenda 7 years ago

      I've read #26 several times. Still cannot understand why the answer is "A". Please explain...

      Thank you kindly

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      janey 7 years ago

      I 2 was baffled w/question that had H, underlned and double underlined? any info would b of help.

      Ihanks in advance.

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      dorian 7 years ago

      This is for Rachelle Weisel: You Like I Embitca said. You count the houses that are inside the wavy lines. Draw a line with the pencil over the wavy lines until you make a circle. Closing the circle where you started the line. Anything in the inside of that circle is "your boundery" Anything in inside that circle are your assigned houses. Those are your bounderies. Anything outside that circle, is not. Hope this helps.

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      lattelulu 7 years ago

      when I took the test I believe there were 2-3 questions answers that I felt were so similar to the practice test, I believe 1 is a math question where the answer was none of the above, the other about being away on vacation or europe

      should be counted, and the other about the # of questions aproximate the amount as 1990 & 2000 and what it relates to, answer being fewer questions than 30 years ago, and what it relates to. I wrote down the answers that were on the practice test, because I believed they were the right answers. I think I might have read the practice test too much. I am now reading that the questions are so similar but no way the same anwers, I also got crazy over the xxx52 etc, etc etc. and the underlined double H, I would really appreciate it if someone could please advise

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 7 years ago from Boston

      Eem, I'm not looking for a job with the Census. I took the test because I was curious and because I knew I could write about it for my readers. But still - that is one helluva selfish attitude you have.

    • profile image

      eem 7 years ago

      This is an awesome description of how to read the map, but do you really want other people to do as good as you did on the quiz? I mean, sure perfect score is perfect score but if a bunch of people in your zip code all get a perfect score, are you certain that you will come first when they assign jobs...just because you took the test earlier?

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      Anne 7 years ago


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      Bennie 7 years ago

      I think your explanation of the census map reading is great!

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      Dr z  7 years ago

      where can i find a real test?

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      Dove88 7 years ago

      The info you provided for questions 19-21,it was really helpful. I knew it had something to do with understanding the instructions.

      The rest of the questions are about paying attention to small detail and you can get through the test easily. Like the trick with 25 is to remember its May 2010 and her bday is in Sept.

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      Nina 7 years ago

      Thanks I understand it now.. question 21 was the tricky one for me ..

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      Nancy 7 years ago

      I got stuck at #28. Anyone please explain it. Thanks in advance!

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      Eric S 8 years ago

      Thank you, When I first took practice test it was kinda weird, but after your tutuorial it all makes sense

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      RACHELLE WEISEL 8 years ago

      Hello again..I have Never been one for maps..but I simply Cannot get this one at all!

      I understand #19..because it tells you what block you are dealing with but with #'s 20 do you know what side is inside your boundary? Which side is your boundary??I cannot sort this out?? Please Help! Thanks...xo R

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I’m good with maps. It is the other part I freeze up with.

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 8 years ago from Boston

      Kecia, that's right, you don't count the houses on Suitland Rd as you are only going to where Suitland intersects with Spring. You actually aren't walking down Suitland Road at all so you wouldn't pass any of those houses.

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      kecia  8 years ago

      I have a question about number question 21, I count 7 house but the answer is 5. Am I not suppose to count the houses on Suitland Road?

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      Milas 8 years ago

      Thanks for maps! I did not understand at all 28. Confused about 25. Disagree with 4. Have to be very careful reading 18. Do not think 30 minutes good for this test, need little bit longer. Thanks Sincerely Mila

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      lama 8 years ago

      big red-q 18

      I am preparing to give tomorrow. Here is what I did for 18. First separate even and odd. i just circled even numbers. so for first table choose among odd numbers only and then go to second table and choose even numbers that match. and tally it with answers.

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      Big Red 8 years ago

      Big Blue: The best solution to question 18 is to place the correct numbers in the corresponding box first. Once you do that you need to read the answers because not each box is filled. If you rush you will assume that it should go a,b,c,d,e,f but look closely at the letters on the answer options. Hope that helps and good luck!

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      Vicki K 8 years ago

      Thank you, The map was my big concern and this helped a lot. I called today, Wednesday and I will take the test on Friday.

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      Blue Blue 8 years ago

      How do you work question #18. Tried and tried can't get it.

      Beginning to understanding the map reading. Thanks!!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 8 years ago from South Africa

      I used to work for Statistics South Africa and was involved in the training of field staff for both the 1996 and the 2001 censuses here. Map reading is indeed one of the skills that many census field workers battle with. Thanks for this informative Hub.

      Love and peace


    • embitca profile image

      Emma 8 years ago from Boston

      Jane, you count the houses that are inside the wavy lines. For example, on Suitland Road, you count the houses that are on the left-hand side of the line. You do not count the houses on the right-hand side of the line because they are outside the boundary.

      The best way to visualize it is to print out the map. Then take a pencil and trace the wavy line all the way around until you reach where you started. You count everything inside the area that you traced.

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      Jane 8 years ago

      I read the How to read the Map. I still do not understand the following: How do you know which side of the road do you count the houses?