Identifying and locating physical and human features

You should be able to interpret different features and patterns on OS maps e.g. limestone or glacial landscape, rural or urban area, tourist settlement or industrial area.

You need to distinguish between different types of land use on an OS map such as housing, farming, forestry, transport routes, and tourist attractions and understand how different land uses impact on each other. For example, the effect of building a new supermarket on farmland at the rural/urban fringe.

Measuring distance and using scale

A coastal map showing a ruler measuring 9 cm between points A and B with a scale of 1:18 000

You should be able to work out the distance between different points on both 1:25 000 and 1:50 000 OS maps.

Note: To calculate a straight-line distance on an OS map, use a ruler to measure the distance on the map in centimetres. Then use the scale line at the bottom of the map to calculate the real distance. You need to give your answer in either metres or kilometres. For example: on a 1:50 000 map, 2 cm on the map (one grid square) represents 1 km on the ground.

Interpreting relief and contour patterns


Relief refers to the height of the land and it can be shown on an OS map in different ways:

  • Brown/orange lines with numbers on them called contour lines. When contour lines are very close, the land is steep. When there are no contours the land is flat
  • A spot height, such as •895. This means that the highest point on the map is 895 metres at that grid reference
  • A triangulation pillar or trig point. It is shown on an OS map as a blue triangle with a blue dot in the centre of it

You need to be able to apply your knowledge and understanding of relief and contour patterns when using OS maps, to enable you to answer mapping questions.