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The assessment of the severity of acute pancreatitis (AP) is a critical early step in its management, as severity of AP predicts prognosis. A range of options are available for assessment of severity in AP, including clinical evaluation, standardized prognostic criteria, computed tomography (CT), and biochemical markers. Clinical assessment has limited accuracy for predicting severity early in the course of AP. Therefore, additional assessment using biochemical and radiologic criteria in combination with standardized criteria is appropriate to determine severity and prognosis in AP; a strategy emphasizing daily assessment of severity should be used. The APACHE II is the scoring system of choice for evaluating severity in AP, although it remains an imperfect tool. Computed tomographic grading of AP and the development of the CT severity index allow for heightened accuracy in the prediction of severity. C-Reactive protein is the standard for serum marker assessment of severity and prognosis in AP; other markers, including interleukin-6, polymorphonuclear elastase, and trypsinogen activation peptide, hold promise. The focus of this review is to examine the role of diagnostic tests in evaluating severity and predicting prognosis among patients with AP and to provide a diagnostic algorithm for initial management.