Understanding OS Maps

For the National 5 Geography examination, you need to be able to: -

  • use four and six-figure grid references
  • identify and locate physical and human features and patterns
  • measure distance and use scale
  • interpret relief and contour patterns
  • use maps in association with photographs, field sketches, cross sections/transects

Using four and six-figure grid references

OS maps are divided into numbered squares. These squares can be used to give a place a four or six-figure grid reference. It is important that you know both four-figure and six-figure grid references.

Make sure you know that: -

  • numbers along the bottom of the map come first and the numbers up the side of the map come second
  • the four-figure reference 2083 refers to the square to the east of Easting line 20 and north of Northing line 83
  • the six-figure reference 207834 will give you the exact point in the square 2083 - 7/10s of the way across and 4/10s of the way up

For example, on the map below, the six-figure reference 207834 shows a church in Bamford.

Ordnance survey showing Bamford in the Hope Valley© Crown copyright and database rights 2015 Ordnance Survey 100039117

Note: when using an OS map to answer questions, you MUST always give grid references in your answer.