Please note that this content is based on the Skills for Life Assessment and Learning guidance booklet ‘Initial and diagnostic assessment – a learner-centred process’. The original booklet can be found at:

This adapted version is part of the Being functional resource which builds on effective practice to support the planning and delivery of functional skills. For more information, go to

What is initial and diagnostic assessment?

Initial and diagnostic assessment begins the process of getting to know learners and building a relationship with them.
Initial assessment happens at the time of a learner’s transition into a new learning programme. It is a holistic process, during which you and the learner start to build up a picture of their achievements, skills, interests, previous learning experiences and goals, and the learning needs associated with those goals. This information is used as a basis for negotiating a course or programme.
Diagnostic assessment helps to identify specific learning strengths and needs. It determines learning targets and appropriate teaching and learning strategies to achieve them. This is important because many learners have higher-level skills in some areas than in others. Diagnostic assessment happens initially at the beginning of a learning programme and subsequently when the need arises. It is related to specific skills needed for tasks.

The two processes are closely linked: diagnostic assessment adds to the information gathered from initial assessment. Together they help you and the learners to use this information in order to:
personalise learning;
develop individual learning plans;
begin the process of assessment for learning that will continue throughout the learners’ programme; and
make links to progression routes and prepare for the next steps.

A positive experience
Initial and diagnostic...