On social studies tests, and throughout your life, certain skills can be very important. These skills may help you read and understand the information on maps, charts, graphic organizers, and other visual aids.

How To Do It

Even if you've never seen a particular kind of map or chart before, you can still figure it out. Here's how.


  • Read the question. What information are you being asked to discover on the map, chart, graph, or other visual?
  • Look at the visual. Are you familiar with this type of graphic item? If so, find the answer. If not, read on.


  • Look closely at the visual. Pay attention to what you're looking at. That seems simple, but many students don't really notice the details of the maps and charts they look at. Noticing takes thought and effort.
  • Find the title. Most maps, charts, and graphic organizers have titles. The title sums up the kind of information that is being shown.
  • Read the map key, headings, or labels. The general information provided in the key, headings, and labels helps you understand where to find the specific information you're looking for.
  • Locate the information you need. Use the map key, headings, or labels to find the answer to the question.

How To Do It

Here are some steps to follow as you answer the question that accompanies the graphs below.

Step 1 Read the question and all of the possible answers, too. Since they all are about “most immigrants,” you know you'll need to zero in on that information in the graphs.

Step 2 Read the title of the graphs. They show immigration in 1850 and 1992.

Step 3 Read the headings. The numbers stand for thousands of people. The heading below the graphs lets you know that each bar stands for the home country of each immigrant group.

Step 4 Skim the bars, looking for the tallest ones. Ah Ha! Ireland and Mexico were the countries that had the most immigrants in the years 1850 and 1992. But possible responses do not use country names. The answers use the names of three continents. Once you figure out the continent where each country lies, you can begin to eliminate some of the answer choices. Answer A must be false because although Canada is in North America it had the fewest people in 1850. D must also be false because none of the countries on the 1992 graph are in Europe.

Step 5 Reread the possible answers, B and C. Because you know that Mexico is not in Asia, and Mexico had the most people come to the U.S. in 1992, then C is false. Ireland had the most immigrants in 1850 and it is in Europe. B is your answer.

Use the information below to answer the following question.


Which of the statements below is true?

  1. Most immigrants came from North America in 1850.
  2. Most immigrants came from Europe in 1850.
  3. Most immigrants came from Asia in 1992.
  4. Most immigrants came from Europe in 1992.