Unit 11 Section 3 : Bearings

Bearings are a measure of direction, with North taken as a reference.
If you are travelling North, your bearing is 000, and this is usually represented as straight up on the page.
If you are travelling in any other direction, your bearing is measure clockwise from North.

Look at the diagram below:
If you walk from O in the direction shown by the red arrow, you are walking on a bearing of 110 .

REMEMBER: Bearings are always measured clockwise from North and are given as 3 digits.

Here are some more examples:

Note that the first two bearings above are in directly opposite directions to each other.
They have different bearings, but they are exactly 180 apart as they are in opposite directions.
A line in the opposite direction to the third bearing above would have a bearing of 150 because 330 - 180 = 150.
These bearings in the opposite direction are called back bearings or reciprocal bearings.

Example Questions

Example Question 1
Points of the compass can all be converted into bearings. We already know that North is 000.

Find the bearings for:
(a) East (E)
(b) South (S)
(c) South-East (SE)

Example Question 2
A ship sails from A to B on a bearing of 120.
On what bearing will it have to sail to return from B to A?

We can extend the line from A to B, then rotate through 180 to head in the opposite direction.
We can see from the diagram above that the bearing from B to A is 300, because 120 + 180 = 300.

REMEMBER: Bearings in exactly opposite directions are called back bearings and are always 180 apart.

Practice Questions

Work out the answer to each of these questions then click on the button marked Click on this button below to see the correct answer to see whether you are correct.

Practice Question 1
On what bearing is a ship sailing if it is heading:
(a) West?
(b) North-East?
(c) South-West?

Practice Question 2
What is the back bearing or reciprocal bearing to each of the bearings below?
(a) 045
(b) 200
(c) 180



Work out the answers to the questions below and fill in the boxes. Click on the Click this button to see if you are correct button to find out whether you have answered correctly. If you are right then will appear and you should move on to the next question. If appears then your answer is wrong. Click on to clear your original answer and have another go. If you can't work out the right answer then click on Click on this button to see the correct answer to see the answer.

Question 1
What angle do you turn through if you turn clockwise from:
(a) N to S   
(b) E to W   
(c) N to NE   
(d) S to NE   
(e) W to NW   
Question 2
What is the bearing of:
(a) N   
(b) NE   
(c) W   
(d) SW   
Question 3
The map of an island has been shown below. A faint set of compass points has been put on the map to help you.

What is the bearing of:
(a) the Beach from the Tower?   
(b) the Tower from the Church?   
(c) the Mine from the Tower?   
(d) the Quay from the Tower?   
(e) the Tower from the Lighthouse?   

Question 4
The diagram shows the positions of two ships, A and B.
What is the bearing:
(a) from ship B to ship A?
(b) from ship A to ship B?
Question 5
An aeroplane flies from Newquay to Birmingham on a bearing of 044 .

On what bearing should the pilot fly, to return to Newquay from Birmingham?

Question 6
A ship sails NW from a port to take supplies to an oil rig.

On what bearing must it sail to return from the oil rig to the port?

In the next question, you will need to draw a diagram on paper to help you work out the answers.
You can use parallel line facts to work it out, or draw an accurate scale drawing.
Question 7
A is North of B.
C is South-East of B.
C is on a bearing of 160 from A.

Find the bearing of:
(a) A from B   
(b) A from C   
(c) C from B   
(d) B from C   

You have now completed Unit 11 Section 3
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Produced by A.J. Reynolds August 2007