Define Diagnostic Essay Definition

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What is a diagnostic essay?

College instructors are often faced with the need to identify their students’ strength and weakness in terms of which specific skill each student has. A diagnostic essay is used to achieve this objective. This is often used at the start of the semester to help instructors identify the kind of curriculum, exercises, and the type of exercises they need to give to students both individually and holistically. Such essays are time-bound and students need to respond to the instructors’ prompts. Diagnostic papers are effective in testing the student’s ability hence diagnostic essay writing is also used on standardized tests including SAT tests.

Occasionally, the writer is given two or more prompts and allowed to choose the one he or she likes. A diagnostic essay is best written by dividing the paper into three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. A diagnostic essay is time-bound thus the author must set aside some time to go through the question and plan how to effectively write the essay. A captivating introduction and a clear thesis are aspects that make a diagnostic assignment to stand out.

How to start a diagnostic essay

The writer has to set aside time to read and answer the prompt, to formulate the thesis as well as plan on how to write the essay within the allocated time period. After pondering over the topic and coming up with a mental sketch of what one needs to write about, the next step is to introduce the topic. This entails reviewing the three key ideas that one would like to focus on as he writes the essay. The writer can start the introduction with a restatement of the essay prompt. For instance, if one is given a prompt to write about the most challenging task that they have ever undertaken, he will give an explanation of the hardest thing he has ever done. The writer can first list a number of tasks that he might consider to be the most challenging to him. From the mentioned options, he will then identify one specific task and pursue it. He will introduce the task and give a detailed review of the same including, for instance, nature and time period the task took, and other relevant aspects. The other key part of the introduction is the thesis statement. The thesis for a diagnostic paper will be a one sentence highlight of the three key reasons why the task is most challenging to the writer.

How to write main part of a diagnostic essay

Having written the introduction and the thesis, the next part is the essay body. The body should have three paragraphs. Each of the three paragraphs will focus on a specific idea and explain it in detail. In the first paragraph, the writer needs to point out and then explain the first reason why he or she thinks the specified task is the most challenging he or she has ever undertaken. The student should pick his or her strongest point or reason and place it in the first paragraph. Clear explanation on, for instance, the mental effort it took to accomplish the task, should be provided.

The second paragraph will outline the point or factor that the writer considers the second most important reason. For instance, in explaining the most challenging task ever undertaken, the second paragraph can focus on the financial burden or responsibility that the task brought upon the student. If one was compelled to go for an unanticipated loan which has since weighed heavily on the borrower, this can be elaborated in detail in the second body paragraph.

The third paragraph will give the third most important idea addressing the prompt. In the aforementioned example, the writer can weigh among all other remaining reasons and identify the strongest. Depending on the weight that the author attaches to each factor, the physical effort it took to complete the task can be discussed in the third paragraph. The third paragraph can also briefly touch on the other key reasons or factors which, although not critical to the prompt’s reply, have a significant impact on the bearing of the writer’s life.

How to conclude a diagnostic essay

A good diagnostic essay has an effective conclusion. The conclusion will restate the key points identified in the introduction as well as in the thesis statement. This will be done in brief and with a major focus on the main three aspects discussed in the body paragraphs. In the aforementioned example, the student can identify the mental, financial, and physical effort and highlight the connection briefly. As diagnostic essays have tight timeframes, it is of utmost importance that the writer makes the conclusion brief and ties it to the expected reply to the prompt.

Outline Example

Introduction – Essence, and basis of the diagnostic essay, explication of the prompt.

Body –   First paragraph: first major/most important point or reason.

  • Second paragraph: second key point
  • Third paragraph: third key point

Conclusion – restatement of three key ideas, and link to the prompt.


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