The DNA of a Diagnostic Assessment Process

The DNA of a Diagnostic Assessment Process

It’s widely known that assessments are key to understanding if a learning program supplies meaningful and efficient instruction to learners. Assessments are often a critical component in determining and identifying competencies and skills whether it’s in the workplace or classroom. There are numerous types of assessments instructors can utilise to identify learners’ knowledge of subjects covered. One type of assessment that is commonly used is a diagnostic assessment.

Diagnostic assessment defined

A diagnostic assessment is pretty powerful and more than a tick and flick exercise. Diagnostic assessments implemented in the right way can:

  • Assess the learner or employee’s strengths and understanding of the course or workplace procedure before learning or verifying competency.
  • Allow instructors to review a learner’s knowledge before the final assessment.
  • Assist with streamlining the course and learning experience for learners ensuring progression occurs when the learner is ready.

As you can see, they are valuable and important in the learning experience for instructors and learners. Therefore, let’s explore more of what a diagnostic assessment is, its importance, and how it can enhance the learning experience.

What is a diagnostic assessment?

A diagnostic assessment is a type of pre-assessment or formative assessment (ie before a formal or summative assessment is performed) that permits a trainer or employer to determine a learner’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and skills before, during and after instruction.

Types of Diagnostic Assessments

Diagnostic assessments can be utilised in numerous different methods and ways. There are many different diagnostic assessment examples, but here are four of the most commonly used ones:

Online Survey

Conducting group surveys and questionnaires is a standard method of performing diagnostic assessments. Trainers can create an online survey or questionnaire and administer them in advance of enrolment or training. It allows instructors to adjust their curriculum for greater impact.


Checklists are another common way to perform a diagnostic assessment prior to beginning a new lesson or subject matter. Checklists are simple and easy to execute as a diagnostic assessment. These allow teachers to list the intended criteria for a lesson or topic area they intend to teach by asking learners to check off what subjects they are already knowledgeable on. By doing this, it allows teachers to increase the quality of the learning experience and make the learning process more effective with minimal overlap or redundancy.

Entry Forms

Entry forms for learners to fill out at the beginning of the course or lesson are a good measure to assess the attendance of the accredited training or study. These forms often are short and quick for learners to provide input, asking for information regarding why they are participating or what they are hoping to learn and gain knowledge about within the lesson or unit. Trainers can then focus on the core concept areas learners are anticipated to grasp more about and gearing the learning plans surrounding that.


Pretests are non-graded diagnostic assessment tools that are used to determine how much knowledge a learner has of the subject. Pretests are commonly comprised of fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, and other close-ended questions. They can be conducted in person or remote with a digital assessment to test learners’ prior knowledge in specific subject areas. It assesses the learner’s existing knowledge before beginning a new learning module or unit. Core concepts and skills gained are key during the learning period.

How Diagnostic Assessments Work

Diagnostic assessments are designed to help form a clear picture of knowledge and skills gaps as well as to offer insight into the quality of a training package.

Most diagnostic assessments fall within these 4 standards:

  • The diagnostic assessment should not be a graded assessment for learners.
  • The assessment concentrates on the learner’s current knowledge base with surveys and practice tests.
  • The assessment focuses on identifying the learner’s strengths, challenges, and areas of improvement.
  • Diagnostic assessments emphasise the pre-knowledge of the learner before the lesson and opportunities for growth in the learning experience.

Purposes of Diagnostic Assessments

There is a myriad of purposes that diagnostic assessments can achieve in efforts to enhance the experiences for learning environments and on-the-job training circumstances. Your goal when using a diagnostic assessment process is to ensure efficiency and depth of learning. That you are not training things that the learner already knows and that you are not progressing until the learner is ready. With the data from the assessments, you can create roadmaps to address gaps in learners’ understanding and knowledge base.

Diagnostic Assessments in Practice

Diagnostic assessments can be utilised in countless industries. From being used within the standard educational system to assess learners’ knowledge prior to instruction to training and development programs to increase workplace skills. Assessments in practice are a useful way of maintaining quality learning experiences.

Before Learning

Diagnostic assessments are most commonly utilised at the beginning of the learning experience for learners to share their expertise before beginning training. In the Vocational Education and Training industry, you might conduct various diagnostic assessments with a Recognition of Prior Learning kit.

Conducting this informal assessment allows learners to show what they already know and therefore can accelerate their learning pathway and it allows instructors to modify their training accordingly.

When conducting a diagnostic assessment prior to instruction, teachers should determine which type of diagnostic assessment will be the most effective for learners. There are 2 main types of diagnostic assessments teachers employ – informal and standardised diagnostic assessments.

  • Informal diagnostic assessments occur more unpredictably before a new subject matter, or learning experience begins. For instance, teachers can ask their learners to share what they know about a specific subject. Also, the teacher could ask learners to complete a brief survey or checklist to gather information prior to the lesson unit beginning. It allows the teacher to gather information on the knowledge level subject within the learning environment more quickly.
  • Standardised diagnostic assessments utilise a well-defined testing method to evaluate a learner’s knowledge and identify any existing gaps. These assessments provide teachers with a more in-depth analysis of a learner’s learning weaknesses and strengths and take place after an informal assessment. Teachers then can take this collected data of learners’ knowledge levels on specific subject matters and develop curriculum-based testing, such as practice tests. Standardised diagnostic assessments are better employed when teachers need to gather more comprehensive information about a learner’s learning weaknesses and strengths.

During Learning

Within a training module, you might decide to run diagnostic assessments at certain milestones. For example, after the learner has watched 2 hours of learning content or once the learner has applied the skills in the workplace.

After Learning

Once all the content you have in your module has been consumed you might want to run a survey or other type of formative assessment as outlined in this blog to assess whether the learner is ready to progress.

Key Advantages of Diagnostic Assessments Recapped

  • Diagnostic assessments are highly valuable to instructors and learners as they support an efficient and data-backed learning experience.
  • A diagnostic assessment process helps trainers develop effective and efficient training strategies for their curriculum.
  • It provides learners with more individualised instruction, to support them in a positive learning journey.
  • It allows instructors to identify learners who may need further instruction in specific areas.
  • It raises efficiencies to ensure overassessing does not occur.
  • They mitigate any risk associated with tasks where vital skills are a requirement.
  • It raises standards when used in a company to ensure a level of quality is maintained where relevant skills are required.
  • The regular use of a diagnostic assessment tool over time provides remedial services for trainers to introduce new content in different formats and in a more beneficial way.

Assessment is the heart of our solution at Cloud Assess. With us, you have the ability to customise and build any assessment type to fit your need.

Interested to see how it works? Have a free trial or book a demo with us today.

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