Road Scholar

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Participants are to be able to interpret, collect data, and make conjectures from maps, usually road and/or topographic maps. Competitors must also be able to draw maps. Participants are given 50 minutes to answer questions pertaining to the map.

Topographic Maps (Quadrangles)

Map Location- This can be found in the top right corner of the quad.
Series- All quads used in Road Scholar are in the 7.5 minute series.
Scale- All quads used in Road Scholar have a scale of 1:24000.
Legend- This can be found in the bottom right corner of the quad.
Contour Interval- This is found in the center of the bottom margin of the quad. This number indicates the number of feet between each contour line.
Contour Lines- These brown lines indicate the elevation.
Magnetic Declination- This is found at the center of the bottom margin of the quad.
Map Symbols- The map symbols needed during the event can be found here: Map Symbols
Survey Control Marks- Numbers on a quad which indicate the elevation more accurately than contours.
Stream Gradient- Use the formula "change in elevation/distance x 1000" to find the answer.
Slope Gradient- Use the formula "change in elevation/distance x 100" to find the answer.

Highway Maps

Mileage Chart- This chart gives you the exact mileage between cities. It's found on the side or back of map.
Black Numbers- Adding together all of the little black numbers (on highways) between cities also determines mileage.
Grid System- Highway maps have a grid system. Go to the number and letter, and bring your fingers together.


Participants should become familiar with reading topographic maps as well as road maps, and knowing what symbols mean on a map. See the USGS ( for a list of road map symbols. A good study tool is the coaches handbook which goes in depth with all the things you need to know.

Many practice tests can be found on You may need to order maps from to complete the tests.

The Competition

You should make sure that you are bringing the right things into the competition. Because you're allowed to bring anything you want, you should take all the notes that you have. It is also absolutely necessary that you bring a ruler, a 360 degree protractor, string (to measure stream gradient),and extra paper (to measure distances and as scratch paper.) A magnifying glass can sometimes be useful, and a map symbol sheet is needed for the map-drawing. A calculator is also helpful because it saves time.

Helpful Hints

It is wise to split the test between you and your partner while in a competition because of the time limit. You may think that 50 minutes is a long time, but when you get into the competition the time seems to fly by. Try to use different state maps while practicing so that you have more experience with different states and terrain. Also, purchase or find different tests to practice with. Finally, try to memorize important formulas such as stream gradient, slope gradient, latitude and longitude.

Drawing the land survey maps

  • be prepared make the squares beforehand
  • have one person draw it

Check out these sites: Includes some general information, how to make a topographic profile, measuring stream gradient, and a sample map. this link gives a great description of how to profile. this has tons of links to other places.