A number of challenges prevent climate change adaptation activities from contributing to vulnerability reduction. Some of these relate to the nature and quality of vulnerability assessments, while others concern how well assessments link with adaptation actions. By highlighting four persistent assumptions about the role of vulnerability assessments in adaptation, this paper seeks to identify ways in which the practice of vulnerability assessment can better support progressive adaptation actions. This paper argues that, for adaptation actions identified within vulnerability assessments to be successful, there is a need for assessment to: (i) engage with marginalized perspectives; (ii) draw upon diverse knowledge domains; (iii) integrate scales of analysis with appropriate scales of action; and (iv) build political will. This requires vulnerability assessment to be considered as more than just a method for information generation on who is most vulnerable to climate change, where they are located and the underlying reasons for their vulnerability. In addition, improving the rigor and transparency of assessments and engagement with stakeholders during the assessment process can better facilitate vulnerability-focused adaptation.