Background: Nematodes are extremely diverse and numbers of species are predicted to be more than a million. Studies on nematode diversity are difficult and laborious using classical methods and therefore high-throughput sequencing is an attractive alternative. Primers that have been used in previous sequence-based studies are not nematode specific but also amplify other groups of organisms such as fungi and plantae, and thus require a nematode enrichment step that may introduce biases. Results: In this study an amplification strategy which selectively amplifies a fragment of the SSU from nematodes without the need for enrichment was developed. Using this strategy on DNA templates from a set of 22 agricultural soils, we obtained 64.4% sequences of nematode origin in total, whereas the remaining sequences were almost entirely from other metazoans. The nematode sequences were derived from a broad taxonomic range and most sequences were from nematode taxa that have previously been found to be abundant in soil such as Tylenchida, Rhabditida, Dorylaimida, Triplonchida and Araeolaimida. Conclusions: Our amplification and sequencing strategy for assessing nematode diversity was able to collect a broad diversity without prior nematode enrichment and thus the method will be highly valuable in ecological studies of nematodes.