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What are diagnostic essays?

Diagnostic essays are essays that students, at the start of the college years are given to write. Although the name can be confusing and can cause fear, it is unlike typical research papers for universities. During a diagnostic essay writing period, the students are not allowed to research the topic and instead are given limited time to complete the essay on any specified topic.

The purpose of diagnostic essays

The main purpose of writing a diagnostic essay is for the professor to be able to determine the students’ skill level in writing, general knowledge, and creativity. The limited time during the writing session does not help, as one is not given enough time to research a topic, and only write the basis of their knowledge.

This essay mainly focuses on the ability of the student to create and prepare the essay with logic, practical and strategic thinking and with correct grammar, punctuation, and formatting rules. It also tests the students’ capability to think on their feet, their proofreading and editing skills. Plenty of times, the professor may choose to modulate the curriculum in a specific manner to ensure that the students’ weak points are covered, or that they do extensive work to overcome their shortcomings, in case they are lagging behind.

Different elements of diagnostic essays

Like most essays, diagnostic essays will have three different segments, the introduction, the body of the essay and finally the conclusion. The essay should be approximately five to six paragraphs long.

As an example, the topic that the students have been given is the “Most important experiences of your life”, or “Why do you think globalization is important?” In this case, the student can decide to write about two hundred words for each section of the essay, except the body, which can be approximately four hundred words. Frequently, the professor may specify how many words are required, which makes writing much simpler.

The introduction will specifically talk about the basics of the chosen topic. It should not cover too much, as there should be material for the body also. The end of the introduction should be the thesis statement that will describe the personal view of the writer on the given topic. Therefore, one can write about what they deem to be the most important experiences of their lives and in the thesis, they can add why they think the points are noteworthy.

The thought behind different paragraphs is that each new thought on the topic or idea should be written in a new paragraph in the body.

The body copy of the essay should be split further, into three sections. It is imperative that one is able to break the topic into segments as there is limited time for this essay and therefore it needs to be well thought out writing. Each paragraph can be about the different experiences that the student is writing about.

The conclusion should be the summary of all the points in the essay, rewritten; why they think the experiences are important, what the experiences are, complete it by summarizing all the points in the essay.

The outline of a diagnostic essay

To give a clearer picture of the outline of the essay, we have simplified the outline to help students understand it better, using the topic from before, “Most important experiences of your life”.


1. Make sure you rewrite the topic in your own words

2. Key point listing

3. The thesis statement

Paraphrasing is the restatement of the topic or text in different words and terms. For example, to paraphrase the subject matter will be, “Significantly important and defining experiences of my life”.

Key point listing is referring to the events or experiences that one is going to write about. The last section of the introduction is the thesis statement.

The thesis statement states not only the topic’s factual information but also what the writer’s take on that data is. The next part of the essay is the body, which is separated into three different segments.


1. The first key element or point mentioned in the introduction

2. The second key element or point mentioned in the introduction

3. The last key element or point mentioned in the introduction


The last section will summarize the entire content of the essay into one small paragraph. The key to a good summary will be listing the key points or elements discussed in the body along with the answered prompt, which was written in the introduction.

Topics of diagnostic essays

Since diagnostic essays come unannounced and with limited writing time, the topics that are usually covered are mostly general knowledge, personal experiences, aggravated social causes and so forth. The topics will not be complicated as the education board factors in the limited time and no research rule. Some good examples of diagnostic topics are listed below.

1. Can renowned social media activists also be called celebrities?

2. Should old-fashioned gender roles be done away with once and for all?

3. Does Racial Discrimination Truly Exist?

Few things to keep in mind

Due to the limited time available, many students tend to panic. Panic is the oppressor of good writing and it will hamper your basic skills if one allows it to. Another point that students fear is that their general knowledge may not be up to the mark. These essays are not to certify how knowledgeable one is, rather have a clear idea about how much work the student has to complete to reach the required level. Lastly, the key to good writing is not to rush through the essay. After the essay has been completed, proofread the content and edit when necessary.

With a clear and concise idea about the topic, the essay can be written skillfully using our guide. The most important factors will be the introduction, the thesis statement, the body copy, along with the details of the key elements and finally the summary of the topic. Writing is skill, and that can be a learned skill or a natural one. While many people consider writing to be a daunting task, people, who practiceDiagnostic Essays, can cultivate and develop good writing skills.


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