Self-assessment reports are a type of alternative assessment and provide a gateway of formative assessment by which learners get opportunities to reflect on their learning process and assess it, provided they are aware of their abilities and progress. In this exploratory study, we examine the self-assessment reports of 12 adult ESL learners enrolled in an Indian university programme where they assess the course content and language gains (reading and writing) from the course. Based on a mixed method of analysis, the learners were found to use exemplification to suit their discourse style. A quantitative analysis showed that the learners were using a variety of exemplification techniques like (i) brief examples with (a) phrases and (b) sentences; (ii) extended examples; and (iii) testimonials to support and argue for their assessments. Furthermore, the learners were found to use these different types of exemplification according to the levels of unity or coherence in their reports, which were at three levels – low (16 %), medium (50 %), and high unity (34 %). For instance, the presence of the first two sub-types of exemplification was found to be more frequent across the learners of low and medium unity whereas the last two types were more prevalent in the high text unity group of learners. A one-way goodness of fit chi-square test revealed that the two frequent sub-types were well distributed for the entire group as well as for the learners whose essays achieved low and medium unity while for the learners who achieved high unity the distribution was equal. Furthermore, a qualitative analysis of a few excerpts showed the types and purposes of using exemplification with 23 % overt and 77 % null markers; it was interesting to note that the null markers did not affect the communicative content of the reports as the learners were found to use other syntactic strategies to mark the presence of exemplification like listing of ideas and using wh-question markers preceding the ideas. A few instances of personalized anecdotal experiences showed that learners were using exemplification to substantiate their arguments at a high level. What is implied from this analysis is that such semi-formal self-assessment reports can be used for two purposes: to assess a course and document learner growth and orientation towards learning, and through the assessment task, trigger a linguistic gain such as develop argumentation skills in adult ESL learners.