COVID-19 Tests are Confusing: Should I Get A Rapid Molecular Test Or A Rapid Antigen Test?

January 7, 2022

COVID-19 Tests are Confusing: Should I Get A Rapid PCR Test Or A Rapid Antigen Test? AFC Urgent Care Marlborough ComparesThe Different Types Of Rapid COVID-19 Tests


As we’ve seen, the Omicron variant has made its way around Massachusetts and there has been an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past two months. We just had a month filled with holiday gatherings and you’re probably wondering if you’ve been exposed. Chances are you might have been, so it’s time to get tested.

COVID-19 tests ARE confusing! The question you all might have is “Should I get a Rapid PCR test or a Rapid Antigen test? But, aren’t all rapid tests the same? No, they’re completely different and they use different testing methods. It’s important to know what type of test you’re getting so you can get the most accurate results and avoid spreading COVID-19. AFC Urgent Care Marlborough is here to help you differentiate the two kinds of Rapid tests on the market.

Aren’t Rapid Tests Like The Molecular Test?

Yes and no. 

Before rapid tests came to market, many of us relied on a PCR test. The PCR, or polymerase chain reaction test is still considered the most accurate and reliable test on the market because of the testing method used. It’s a type of molecular test that tests the genetic material of the virus. You can’t get any more specific or sensitive than that. 

The only drawback of the PCR test is the speed of results. The tradeoff for reliability and accuracy is that it can take a few days in order to get results. This is why most people turn to rapid testing options,  because of the appeal of getting a result “within minutes” or on the “same day”. 

But, not all Rapid tests are the same. 

Don’t confuse Rapid Antigen Tests With Rapid Molecular Tests

In the past year we have been lucky enough to have the Rapid Molecular testing option. It’s a faster version of the PCR test, using the same molecular testing properties,  giving us the best of both worlds for accuracy and results on the same day. However, there are other rapid testing options that are confusing people. We understand. 

Antigen Rapid tests are another common type of rapid test that tests for the live protein of the virus. These tests are not as specific or sensitive at detecting a viral infection like a PCR test can, but they can produce results “within minutes”. Some people are getting confused and think that Rapid Antigen tests or even the “at-home” versions are considered a “proof of test”. 

Unfortunately Antigen tests are not widely accepted by employers, schools, many events, and for travel…. and this test also has its drawbacks. For starters,they only test for the protein of the virus,  making it harder to detect in your system if you’re already past the early stages of infection. This test is also not ideal if you’re asymptomatic as it can produce false negatives. Even if you do have symptoms and you test negative for COVID, chances are it could be a false negative.

Again, the tradeoff for speed is less reliability and accuracy. If you’re unsure of your Antigen test results or your employer is requiring a “proof of test”, a PCR test or a rapid PCR test is the way to go.

AFC Urgent Care Marlborough Offers Rapid PCR Testing

We highly suggest getting vaccinated for COVID-19.  Doing this is helping people stay out of hospitals and causing less severe symptoms or no symptoms. At the same time,  we highly suggest planning your COVID-19 tests after the holidays to ensure you’re doing your part to stay safe and keep others safe too.


The CDC guidelines have recently been updated to shorten the quarantine and isolation time for people who test positive in the U.S. 

Isolation time has been reduced from 10 days to 5 days. It is required to wear a mask for another 5 days as an extra precaution. For more information and guidance, click here.

**Due to unusually high demand for testing, in order to better serve our patients we have temporarily implemented a ticketing system to schedule for urgent care visits and covid-19 testing throughout the day. Tickets are distributed at the start of each day (approximately 8am) until all appointments have been exhausted for that day. Each ticket will provide information on what time to return back to the center for your appointment. 

Make sure to stick around as results are available on the same day usually within 20-30 minutes. We will hand you your results making it easy for you to go about your normal day afterwards. 

Always here for our friends and families in the Marlborough community. 

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Call (508) 658-0764 for more information about our Marlborough urgent care services.

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