Map Quiz Tips

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How to Study for a Map Quiz

I started with a blank map created by Matt Rosenberg, Guide to Geography. Check out his collection of outline maps to create your own animated maps.

The map quiz is a favorite learning tool for teachers of geography, social studies, and history. In fact, you could also encounter a map quiz in a foreign language class!

The purpose of a map quiz is to help students learn the names, physical features, and traits of places around the world.

First: The Wrong Way to Study for a Map Quiz!

Many students make the mistake of trying to study by reading a map over and over, merely looking at the features, mountains, and place names that are already provided for you. This is not a good way to study!

Studies show that (for most people) the brain does not retain information very well if we only observe facts and images that are presented to us. This means that you must find a way to pre-test yourself repeatedly while tapping into your best learning style.

In other words, as always, you must get active to really study effectively.

It's most beneficial to study a map for a short period, and then find a way to test yourself a few times - by inserting these names and/or objects (like rivers and mountain ranges) yourself - until you can fill out an entire blank map on your own.

Studies show that the most effective way to learn any new material is by repeating some form of fill-in-the-blank testing.

There are a few good ways to test yourself. For this type of assignment, your preferred learning style may determine which method is best for you.

Color-Coded Map

You can use colors to help you remember place names. For example, if you are trying to memorize and label the countries of Europe, you'd start by picking a color for each country that starts with the same first letter as each country name:

  • Germany = green
  • Spain = silver
  • Italy = ice blue
  • Portugal = pink

Study a completed map first. Then print out five blank outline maps and label the countries one at a time. Color in the shape of the countries with the appropriate color as you label each country.

After a while, the colors (which are easy to associate with a country from the first letter) are imprinted in the brain in the shape of each country!

This method works well for strong visual and tactile learners.

Dry Erase Map

This method is great for tactile learners - and also great for the young environmentalist who doesn't like to use up several sheets of paper! You will need:

  • One blank outline map
  • One clear plastic sheet protector
  • A thin-tip dry erase pen

First you will need to read over and study a detailed map. Then place your blank outline map in the sheet protector. You now have a ready-made dry erase map! Write in the names and erase them over and over again with a paper towel.

You can actually use the dry erase method to practice for any fill-in test.

The Talking Map Method

Students with PowerPoint 2010 installed on their computers can easily turn an outline map into an animated video.

First you'll need to make a PowerPoint slide of a blank map. Next, type the name label of each country using "text boxes" in the correct locations.

  • Insert -> Text Box

Once you've typed the names, select each text box and give the text an animation using the Animation tab.

Once you've created your map, select the Slide Show tab. Select "Record Slide Show." The slide show will begin to play itself, and the program will be recording any words you say. You should say the name of each country as the animation of the words (being typed) plays.

At this point, you will have created a video of your map being filled out and your voice saying the name of each country as the labels appear. This is perfect for auditory learners!


The examples above show that study time doesn't have to be boring! When you get creative and explore new ways to study your material, you will make the learning experience much more enjoyable.

It is best to try a few different ways to study, to find out which method works best for you.