What Are The Differences Between The Types Of Covid-19 Tests?

If you have come into contact with someone who has Covid-19 or are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, you may be looking into options for testing. The three primary tests are known as ‘RT-PCR’, the ‘rapid test’ (also known as the ‘antigen nasal swab’), and the antibody test. What’s the difference between these tests, and which is the best for you?

The Different Types of Covid-19 Test Options

What are your options for Covid-19 testing? There are 3 primary tests, and each of them has a different function. Here’s what they are, how they’re administered, and how long it takes to get results.


  • The RT-PCR test (sometimes called a ‘diagnostic’, ‘molecular’, or simply ‘PCR’ test) is used most often to test for Covid-19. This test is highly accurate and mitigates the chance of receiving a false positive or false negative result.
  • The RT-PCR test analyses a sample of fluids collected from your sinus cavity for genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus.
  • This test is a nasal swab that must be sent to a lab for processing.
  • Your results typically return within 3 business days.


  • The antibody test analyzes the blood for signs of a previous Covid-19 infection. Note that it can still detect a previous infection whether or not you had symptoms.
  • This test is administered as either a finger stick or a blood draw and must be sent to a lab for analysis.
  • Your results typically return within 3 business days.

Antigen (also called ‘rapid test’)

  • The antigen test looks at a sample of fluids taken from either your sinus cavity or your throat for certain proteins located on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus.
  • This test is a swab of either the nasal passages or throat which can be processed onsite.
  • Your results are usually available within 15 minutes of completion of the test.
  • It’s important to know that the rapid test does have more frequent false positives and false negatives than the RT-PCR test.

Read MoreWhat Is The Difference Between The Antibody And Antigen COVID-19 Tests?

Which test should I get?

It depends on your circumstances and situation.

In general…

  • If you need a test quickly, the rapid test may be the best option for you.
  • If time is no object and you want a test with the highest degree of accuracy, the RT-PCR test may be the superior option.
  • If you want to know if your history of infection, an antibody test is ideal.

Consult with your doctor to decide which test they recommend according to your circumstances.

What Are False Positives And False Negatives?

Although all medical tests are designed for accuracy, it’s possible to receive a misdiagnosis after a COVID test. These are known as ‘false positives’ and ‘false negatives’.

In other words…

  • False positives: Although the patient is not actually sick, their test returns positive.
  • False negatives: Although their test returns negative, the patient is actually infected with Covid-19.

RT-PCR tests are extremely reliable and have lower rates of false positives and false negatives; however, they take longer to return their results. The rapid antigen tests have a higher rate of inaccurate results, but those results are generally available within 15 minutes of completing your test.

In-Home Covid-19 Testing With Concierge MD

Concierge MD now provides in-home Covid-19 testing in select cities in the US. Our nurses maintain impeccable health and safety standards by wearing medical-grade protective equipment and practicing social distancing for your safety during your appointment.

We preserve your time that would have otherwise been waisted waiting in long lines at testing centers, risking exposure to the virus at a clinic. This makes in-home testing a safe and convenient way to get fast answers.


Experience Care with ConciergeMD

ConciergeMD offers coverage throughout the United States.