Before introducing students to a new topic, it’s best to find out how much they know about the subject. Diagnostic assessments are specially designed for this purpose. You can think of diagnostic assessments as a quick-fire method of gauging your students’ knowledge. 

One of the most important benefits of diagnostic assessments is they help you to streamline your course content and teaching methods. In other words, you can tailor the entire pedagogy to the specific challenges your students are facing. This helps you to optimize your teaching model. 

Use this guide to learn more about diagnostic assessments, their features, and how to conduct one with Formplus. 

What is a Diagnostic Assessment? 

A diagnostic assessment is a type of pre-evaluation that allows the teacher to discover how much knowledge a student has on a subject matter. In other words, it is used to gauge the level of a student’s knowledge and to discover any learning gaps they might have. They happen at the beginning of a learning experience; that is, a unit, lesson quarter or period of time. 

Diagnostic assessments are “low-stake” assessments because they are non-graded and do not determine whether the student moves to the next educational level. Rather, they show a student’s strengths and weaknesses regarding a specific field of study. With this information, the teacher can make any required adjustments to the learning framework to get the most results. 

Here’s an example of how diagnostic assessments work. Suppose you’re starting a new mathematical lesson on quadratic equations. In that case, you can conduct a simple test to discover how much pre-loaded information a student has about a topic. 

Use for Free: Assessment Tools: Types, Examples & Importance

What are the Features of a Diagnostic Assessment? 

To describe an assessment method as “diagnostic”, it must meet the following criteria: 

  1. A diagnostic assessment must happen at the beginning of a learning experience such as a new semester or lesson unit.
  2. It should focus on understanding a student’s current knowledge base
  3. A diagnostic assessment must identify the strengths and areas of improvement for the student. 
  4. It must be non-graded 
  5. It should establish a baseline to compare what a student knew prior to a lesson and what they learned after in order to measure growth. 

Purpose of Diagnostic Assessment

Why should teachers bother about diagnostic assessments? The main purpose of a diagnostic assessment is to collect enough data about what students already know about a topic. The teacher uses this data to create a realistic roadmap that addresses any gaps of knowledge. 

Diagnostic assessments also benefit the instructor by providing a baseline for teaching. The teacher would know the most important areas to focus on, and the topics that should be ignored. They also have the chance to correct any misconceptions before beginning a learning activity. 

Ultimately, diagnostic assessments make the teaching/learning process more efficient and effective by zeroing in on content that needs to be taught and mastered. It puts the students and teachers on the same page and creates a better learning experience for everyone. 

Types of Diagnostic Assessment 

Diagnostic assessments are broadly placed in two categories—informal diagnostic assessment and standardized diagnostic assessment. 

1. Informal Diagnostic Assessment

An informal diagnostic assessment happens spontaneously before a new learning experience begins. For example, the teacher could call up a few students and ask them to share what they know about a specific subject. She could also ask students to complete a survey or simple checklist to gather information. 

When to Use Informal Diagnostic Assessments

Informal diagnostic assessment works best when you swiftly need to measure how much students know about a subject. It is fast and allows you to gather information on the go. 

2. Standardized Diagnostic Assessment

A standardized diagnostic assessment uses well-defined testing methods to evaluate a student’s knowledge, and identify any existing gaps. These assessments provide teachers with a more in-depth analysis of a student’s learning weaknesses and strengths.

Typically, standardized diagnostic assessments happen after the informal assessments. First, the teacher collects spontaneous data on the student’s level of knowledge. Next, they apply a standardized method like curriculum-based testing to determine a student’s knowledge level of a specific standard. 

When to Use Standardized Diagnostic Assessment 

You should use standardized diagnostic assessments when you need to gather comprehensive information about a student’s learning weaknesses and strengths. 

Examples of Diagnostic Assessments

  • Surveys and Questionnaires 

Surveys and questionnaires are some of the most common methods of conducting diagnostic assessments. You can create an online survey/questionnaire with Formplus, and administer them at the beginning of your lesson. Alternatively, you may use the email invitation feature to send the survey to students beforehand. 

Formplus allows you to collate responses seamlessly and interpret them to arrive at the most reliable outcomes. Using this data, you can make any necessary adjustments to your teaching model for better impact. 

  • Unit Pretest

A unit pre-test is a non-graded assessment tool used to determine how much knowledge a student has of the subject. These pretests are commonly made up of fill-in-the-gap questions, multiple-choice questions, and other types of close-ended questions. The whole idea is to test a student’s existing knowledge before they get started on a new learning module or unit. 

When preparing a unit preset, it’s best to focus on the core concepts and skills that you want students to know at the end of the learning period. Many textbooks and other learning materials have unit presets in different chapters. You can build yours from scratch using a form builder like Formplus. 

  • Checklists 

A checklist is a simple tool that outlines specific assessment criteria for diagnostic evaluation. Checklists are highly collaborative, which means the teacher and the students can participate equally in the evaluation process. It also allows for self-evaluation. 

Teachers score each student based on the different criteria on the list. In the end, they analyze the results and use this to gauge the student’s level of knowledge of the subject matter. One of the advantages of using a checklist for assessment is it helps you to streamline the evaluation process and focus on the most important criteria. 

  • Curriculum-based Measurements 

Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) is a method teachers use to find out how students are progressing in basic academic areas such as math, reading, writing, and spelling. Although it is mostly used in formative evaluation, it also has a place in diagnostic assessments. 

During curriculum-based testing, the students partake in brief assessments lasting 1–5 minutes each. The teacher records their scores for each of these tests. After the scores have been recorded, the teacher decides whether to continue instruction in the same way or to change it.

Common examples of curriculum-based measurement include: 

  1. Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
  2. Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT)
  3. Group Mathematics Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GMADE)
  • Impromptu Quiz 

As the name suggests, an impromptu quiz is a spontaneous assessment of your student’s knowledge. You can conduct this offline or use Formplus to create and administer an online quiz. 

In most cases, a quiz has only 10 questions or less, in different formats. You should expect open-ended questions as well as close-ended question types like multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, and true or false questions. 

If you like, you can switch things up by organizing the impromptu quiz as a class game with rewards for the winners. 

  • Entry Slips 

You can use entry slips to collect quick information from students. Teachers can ask a few questions while students write down their responses on the slips. After the exercise, the teacher retrieves the slips, evaluates the responses, and makes any required changes to the curriculum. 

Advantages of Diagnostic Assessments

One of the key benefits of a diagnostic assessment is it allows the teacher and student to highlight and address knowledge gaps. When you have a clear idea of a student’s level of knowledge, you can restructure your teaching program to address their most pressing challenges. Let’s look at some other advantages of conducting diagnostic assessments in the classroom.

  1. It helps you to tie learning outcomes to specific goals and objectives. 
  2. Diagnostic assessments provide substantial data for creating an effective curriculum that improves learning outcomes for students. 
  3. It makes the teaching and learning process more efficient by zeroing in on content that needs to be taught.
  4. It creates a rewarding and amicable learning environment for the teacher and the students. 
  5. Diagnostic assessment allows the teacher to map out a meaningful and efficient instruction plan for the course duration. 
  6. It creates a baseline for future assessment. At the end of the course, the teacher can compare students’ performance viz a viz their level of knowledge at the beginning of the course, and record any improvements. 
  7. Diagnostic assessment allows the teacher to individualize instruction. From the data, you can identify students who need extra tutoring on a particular portion of a unit or course of study. In the same vein, if a teacher discovers that a group of students has already mastered a large portion of a unit of study, he can design activities that allow that group to go beyond the standard curriculum for that topic through independent or small group study.

Limitations and Disadvantages of Diagnostic Assessment

1. Large Class Size 

It’s easy to carry out a diagnostic assessment when you’re dealing with very few students. However, if you have a large class, it becomes more difficult to conduct this type of assessment, analyze results and arrive at a realistic conclusion. One way to get past this challenge is using an online form for administering the assessment. 

With Formplus, you can create powerful surveys and questionnaires, and collect responses fast. Read on to learn more about using Formplus forms for diagnostic assessments. 

2. Time-consuming 

Again, this is a challenge if you’re dealing with a large class. In fact, many instructors argue that diagnostic assessments are impractical in large classrooms. Conducting this type of assessment means sacrificing useful time that can be used for teaching and learning. 

Other challenges you should expect with diagnostic assessments include: 

3. They generally require special training in order to be administered and scored reliably.

4. If the teachers lack commitment, then you wouldn’t get the best results from this process. 

5. Diagnostic assessments can trigger anxiety in students. 

6. It can lead to false inferences about a child’s knowledge or abilities in the classroom. 

How To Use Formplus for Diagnostic Assessments 

With Formplus, you can create powerful surveys, questionnaires and quizzes for diagnostic assessment. Formplus has several features that allow you to gather, organize and analyze data seamlessly. Let’s show you how to create an online form for diagnostic assessment with Formplus. 

Step 1: Sign up for a Formplus account here. If you don’t have a Formplus account, you can sign up for one easily. 

Step 2: On your dashboard, click the “create new form” button. If you’d like, you can explore the templates library to discover a sample that suits your needs. 

Step 3: Now, you should be in the form builder. On the left corner of the builder, you’d find the inputs section with several field options. 

Step 4: Drag and drop preferred fields into the form’s work area. Next, use the pencil icon beside each field to edit them. 

Step 5: Click on the “save icon” to save all the changes you’ve made. This gives you automatic access to the builder’s customization section. 

Step 6: Use the customization options to change the look and feel of your form. You can add preferred background images, change the form’s font or add your school’s logo to the questionnaire or survey. 

Step 7: Copy the form link and share it with respondents. You can also use the email invitation feature, or share the form via QR code. 


Diagnostic assessments help teachers to plan meaningful and efficient instruction and can provide students with an individualized learning experience. Remember that it is a low-stake assessment so, there’s no need to use the assessment results for summative evaluation.

  • busayo.longe
  • on 9 min read


You may also like:

Ipsative Assessments: Definition, Types and Examples

In this article we are going to discuss ipsative assessment and how it compares an individual’s character traits.

5 min read
Job Evaluation: Definition, Methods + [Form Template]

Everything you need to know about job evaluation. Importance, types, methods and question examples

9 min read
33 Online Shopping Questionnaire + [Template Examples]

Learn how to study users’ behaviors, experiences, and preferences as they shop items from your e-commerce store with this article

9 min read
Semantic Differential Scale: Definition+ [Question Examples]

Simple guide on semantic differential scale: definition, examples, advantages and how to create a surveys with semantic scale

9 min read

Formplus - For Seamless Data Collection

Collect data the right way with a versatile data collection tool. Try Formplus and transform your work productivity today.
Try Formplus For Free