Unlike most other essays, diagnostic essays are not meant to influence the student’s final passing grade but are rather aimed at revealing their strengths and weaknesses to the teachers to help them shape the curriculum in an ultimate way. For this reason, students are usually to write these essays at the beginning of a semester or a term, and they define the curriculum.
The important detail is that the students are not expected to perform their best here. Instead, they are to show what knowledge and skills they have at the moment and how well they can use them. This is why writing a diagnostic essay is a time-bound task. It usually comes in the form of a standard five-paragraph essay: an introduction, three main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Additionally, all students will typically have to write on the same topic, but sometimes there are two or three options to choose from. To make the task easier, teachers often give the topic in the form of a prompt or a question that you are expected to answer directly in your essay’s conclusion.
Since you have a limited amount of time to write your essay, you should have a comprehensive plan in your head as to what exactly you will be doing – to allocate just enough time to go through your topic, give it some thinking, write the essay itself, and go through it once again before submitting it.
Remember that you should only proceed to writing your introduction when you have made sure that you understand the topic and already know what you will write in the main body of your diagnostic essay. In other words, before writing your essay introduction, you need to know what exactly you are introducing.
To start off, it is a good idea to paraphrase the topic that you were given to write about. Then, you have the three key points on which you have decided to focus on the main body of your essay, so they ought to be briefly introduced.
For example, if you are to write about the hardest decisions that you had to make in your life, you must not focus on only one decision. You can suggest three variants and give them a scope. So, each paragraph of your main body will be dedicated to one of these alternatives, and you will briefly mention them in your introduction.
Then, you end your introduction with a thesis statement. In our example, your thesis statement can tell the reader which factors you consider to label a certain decision the hardest one to make and why.
As we have mentioned, the main body of your diagnostic essay will usually consist of three paragraphs. In each of these paragraphs, you take one of the three key points that you have mentioned in your introduction and expand upon each.
The first body paragraph should be the strongest one. Following our example with the topic of hard decisions, the first paragraph would talk about the hardest decision that you had to make, in your opinion. You apply the factors of consideration from your thesis statement to explain to your reader why exactly you consider this example of a decision to be the hardest.
In the second main body paragraph of your essay, you talk about the second hardest decision that you had to make. You apply the same factors to this example of a decision. Notably, by some factors, this decision could be even harder to make than your first example. In such a case, you should explain why these factors are less important than others and what ultimately landed this particular example at number two.
As you may guess, your third paragraph will address the easiest of your three hard decisions. You should highlight that despite this example landed at number three on your list, it was still a hard decision to make. Naturally, you apply the same factors as with the previous two. It is also a good idea to list some other examples of hard decisions that didn’t make it into your final list. They don’t need to be explained, just a very brief mention will do.
Any good essay should end with a powerful conclusion. However, it gets especially tricky here, because your task is time-bound and you have very limited time to end your essay on a powerful note. This is why it is critical to make your diagnostic essay conclusion brief. The main idea is to give the reader a feeling that the topic has been fully covered. If your topic came in the form of a prompt, then you should just make sure that you have answered it.
The essential thing to remember here is that the conclusion is no place to give your reader any new information. Basically, you can just restate your thesis statement and list your key points from the perspective of the information that you have already given. With our example, you just list your three examples of hard decisions, list the reasons why you think that some decisions are harder than others, and conclude with stating that a certain decision was the hardest because the most important factor of consideration was most involved in it.
To sum it up, here is a brief outline of a diagnostic essay:
2. Most important key point
3. Second most important key point
4. Third most important key point
5. Conclusion: list of key points you have talked about and an answer to the initial prompt.
Since the task is time-bounded, you probably won't help yourself writing it in a rush. In such a situation, it is easy to make some small mistakes that you normally would not make. It is true that a diagnostic essay will not influence your grades, but you still don’t want to be misrepresented. So, make sure that writing your conclusion will not be the final thing you do before submitting your essay. Leave a few minutes to go through your writing once again and fix some minor errors that you might have.