what are the 3 types of scales on a map

Types of Scales on a Map

Maps are an essential tool for navigating our way through the world. They provide us with an understanding of our surroundings, allowing us to plan and explore our environment effectively. One crucial element of a map is its scale, which represents the ratio of the distance on the map to the actual distance on the ground. There are three primary types of scales used on maps: verbal, graphic, and representative fraction. Each type has its unique characteristics and applications, making them valuable tools in interpreting and utilizing maps.

Verbal Scale

The verbal scale, also known as the word scale, relies on words to represent the relationship between distances on a map and the real world. It is expressed in a simple sentence or phrase, such as “one inch represents one mile” or “one centimeter is equal to 100 meters.” Verbal scales are typically used in small-scale maps, where the map’s size is significantly smaller compared to the size of the area being represented.

what are the 3 types of scales on a map

Verbal scales offer the advantage of being easily understandable, as they use familiar units and provide a direct representation of the map’s ratio. They are often found on tourist maps or maps used for general reference. However, they can be less precise than other scale types, as they rely on approximation and can be ambiguous in some cases.

Graphic Scale

The graphic scale, also called the bar scale or linear scale, utilizes a line or bar marked with distances to represent scale. This type of scale is commonly seen on maps, ranging from road maps to topographic maps. By measuring the actual length of the line against the corresponding distance marked on the scale, users can determine the distances between locations accurately.

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Graphic scales are highly versatile and can be used on maps of various sizes. They provide a clear visual representation of the relationship between map and ground distances. Additionally, graphic scales can be easily reproduced in different sizes, maintaining their accuracy and reliability across different maps.

Representative Fraction

Representative fraction, also known as the ratio scale or RF, presents the scale as a fraction or ratio. For example, a representative fraction of 1:100,000 means that one unit on the map corresponds to 100,000 units in the real world. This type of scale is commonly used in topographic maps, engineering drawings, and navigation charts.

Representative fractions are precise and allow for accurate measurements and calculations. They can also be easily converted between different units and systems. However, understanding representative fractions may require some familiarity with mathematical concepts, such as ratios and proportions.


Understanding the different types of scales used on maps is crucial for accurate interpretation and utilization of geographical information. Verbal scales provide a simple and familiar representation, while graphic scales offer a clear visual reference. On the other hand, representative fractions allow for precise measurements and calculations.

By incorporating these scales appropriately, maps provide a reliable and accessible tool for navigating and exploring our world. Whether you’re planning a road trip, exploring new hiking trails, or analyzing geographic data, understanding and using map scales will enhance your experience and ensure accurate navigation.

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