What Is a Diagnostic Essay?

The diagnostic essay is a teaching tool used by many educators to give them an idea what skills students already have coming into a new class. By evaluating the class's diagnostic essays, the instructor can help students work on skills needed to meet course objectives.

While diagnostic essays are most frequently used in writing and English classes, they may be used in other classes as well. When assigning such an essay, the teacher will usually give a prompt or essay assignment. Some prompts may include:

  • What features might characterize effective writing?
  • Many people are collectors. Others think it's a waste of time and money. Each student should write the way he or she feels about "collecting."
  • The students should write about the hardest thing they ever had to do and how it changed them.