Should I Get A Rapid COVID Test Or A Molecular Test? What’s The Difference?

January 9, 2022

Should I Get A Rapid COVID Test Or A PCR Test? What’s The Difference? AFC Urgent Care Norwalk Explains The Differences

With the Omicron variant making its way around Connecticut, many of you are probably worried about getting infected. We just had a month filled with holidays and gatherings, and chances are you may have been exposed and don’t even know it. Now is not the time to be skipping your COVID-19 vaccines or blowing off testing. 

Some schools are taking extra precautions by going fully virtual in January to avoid an unnecessary spread of the virus. But, not everyone is taking this precaution, which is why it’s important to get tested after a holiday gathering or when returning to public places like work. 

The question you might have is “Should I get a Rapid test or a PCR test? AFC Urgent Care Norwalk is going to break down the differences between each test because they’re not all the same. Getting the right test will avoid any delays in your routine as well as help you avoid getting you or someone you love sick.

The Differences Between Rapid And PCR Tests

First and foremost, you need to know that there are major differences between PCR tests and Rapid COVID-19 tests. People often confuse the two, and some people think ALL COVID-19 tests are the same thing. In fact, the type of test matters,  and you want to avoid the tests that aren’t reliable or accurate. 

But, which ones are the most accurate and reliable? 

Should I get a rapid COVID test or a PCR test? 

If you’ve ever been asked for a “proof of test”,  chances are they were asking for a PCR test. PCR tests are considered the gold standard of COVID-19 testing and are widely used and accepted around the world. The reason they are the most reliable COVID-19 test out there is because of their accuracy when detecting the COVID-19 virus. 

PCR tests are a type of molecular test that is more specific and sensitive than other tests. The method used during a test converts the RNA of the virus into DNA while testing against millions of copies of it. PCR tests are best used to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19, are asymptomatic, or if you were exposed recently. Even if you have a small amount of the COVID-19 virus in your sample collection, a PCR test will be able to detect it making it easier to give you the results you need. 

The only drawback is that for reliability and accuracy, 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, beware…. the tradeoff for speed is often accuracy and reliability. At the same time not all rapid tests are the same.

Don’t confuse “Rapid Molecular Tests” With “Rapid Antigen Tests”

In the past year we have been lucky enough to have a Rapid Molecular testing option. It’s a faster version of the PCR test, 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.

You may have heard of the Antigen test, which is another type of rapid test. Results are “within minutes” and some people confuse this as an accepted form of test. Unfortunately, these Antigen tests are not widely accepted,  and this test also has its drawbacks. For starters, it doesn’t use the same method of molecular testing the PCR test or Rapid Molecular test does. It only tests 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, chances are it could be a false negative too.

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 Molecular test is the way to go.

AFC Urgent Care Norwalk Offers Both Rapid Molecular Tests And PCR Tests

We highly suggest getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as this is helping people stay out of hospitals with less severe symptoms. We get it, you want to be able to live life uninterrupted by going to see your family, going to school, work or to travel. This is why it’s important to get tested to avoid an unnecessary spread and to keep others that are immunocompromised safe.


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.

AFC Urgent Care Norwalk is open 7 days a week for your urgent care needs.  

We have both Rapid Molecular testing and PCR testing options giving you the results you can trust, so you can live life uninterrupted. 

Standard PCR testing results are now available via our NEW patient portal by email. The instructions are easy to follow via email and results are ready in 48-72 hours.

If you choose our Rapid Molecular testing option, stick around,  as results are available on the same day 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 Norwalk and Wilton communities. 



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