Types of COVID-19 Test

Types of COVID-19 Tests: PCR vs Antigen vs Antibody Test

Common types of COVID-19 tests include PCR test, antigen rapid test (ART) and antibody tests. Compare the pros & cons and find out when each test is used.

by Hannah Grey

Testing is incredibly crucial in diagnosing COVID-19, no matter where you are in the world. In this article, we’ll be exploring the common types of  COVID-19 tests and how they can contain the spread of the virus.

In his nationwide address on 31 May 2021, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that on top of the PCR test and ART, many different COVID-19 tests such as saliva tests, breathalysers, wastewater surveillance and sniffer dogs have become available, including DIY COVID-19 test kits that will be available soon in pharmacies.

These DIY COVID-19 tests are simple to use and not uncomfortable, allowing those who are worried or work in high-risk sectors to administer COVID-19 tests on their own and put their minds at ease.

Types of COVID-19 Tests 

COVID-19 tests can be divided into two different groups: diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Diagnostic tests are used to determine or diagnose a specific condition, which in this case is the SARS-CoV-2 virus. On the contrary, antibody tests detect past infections by looking for antibodies in the blood. 

We will be exploring three types of COVID-19 tests: the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, Antigen Rapid Test (ART), and Antibody Tests. Here’s how they differ from one another:Comparison Table of the different Types of COVID-19 Tests — Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test, Antigen Rapid Test (ART) and Antibody or Serology Test

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test

The Polymerase Chain Reaction Test, or PCR test for short, is one of the most common COVID-19 tests in the world and is considered the “gold standard” of COVID-19 detection during the pandemic. This test is responsible for detecting COVID-19 genetic sequences, which can indicate if a person is currently infected by the virus — regardless of whether they are displaying symptoms or are asymptomatic. 

Samples are taken via oral or nasal swab, which is either inserted into the back of the nose or throat. Both methods are known to produce slightly uncomfortable sensations but are ultimately harmless. After sample collection, the results from the PCR test can be determined as early as 24 hours. 

Since it is minimally invasive, produces accurate results, and has a quick turnaround time, most people prefer to take PCR tests among others. 

Best for: Symptomatic individuals, rostered routine testing for high-risk sectors, Quarantine Order (QO) entry and exit swab, and Stay-Home Notice (SHN) exit swab

Antigen Rapid Test (ART)

The Antigen Rapid test (ART) also involves using a nasal swab from the lower part of your nose or back of your throat. Despite its similarities, both the PCR test and ART work rather differently. The purpose of antigen tests is to look for proteins from the virus on the surface to determine the presence of pathogens.  

Another key difference between both COVID-19 tests is how ARTs can produce results in an hour or less, which is significantly faster than PCR tests. With a quick turnaround time, this is why ART is the preferred COVID-19 test for pre-event testing (PET) for larger-scale events such as weddings ceremonies and receptions, live performances, sports, as well as conferences and seminars. 

However, a major drawback to antigen tests is the possibility for higher false-positive results in individuals with low viral load. Due to this inaccuracy, an additional PRC test is needed to confirm the result. 

Best for: Pre-event testing for large-scale events 

Antibody Test

Antibody or serology tests differ greatly from the two diagnostic tests mentioned above. Essentially, the antibodies in our immune system give us a degree of protection from SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19. What an antibody test does is look for coronavirus antibodies in people who have been infected with the virus, which is incredibly useful in measuring the longevity of vaccine responses.

Generally, an antibody test is only conducted after a complete recovery from COVID-19; not when you are experiencing symptoms or when you are suspected to have contracted the virus. Unlike swab tests, samples are drawn through a blood test via finger prick or venous blood draw before it is sent for testing. 

Unlike PCR tests and ARTs, antibody tests are less common as the information retrieved from the results do not tell you much about an active infection. Due to the delay in the production of antibodies after exposure to the virus, these tests are only useful in identifying if you have contracted or have been exposed in the past—not in the present moment. While the tests are unable to diagnose an active infection, they can help to tell if a person has immunity to the virus. 

Best for: Identifying a past infection and for contact tracing purposes 

How can I get tested for COVID-19 in Singapore?

For Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Tests

PCR tests are the most accessible COVID-19 tests and are available at over 600 clinics and healthcare providers in Singapore. As long as you have been exposed to the virus or have been experiencing symptoms, you are not required to seek approval from the Ministry of Health prior to your test. Simply make an appointment at your preferred clinic and get tested right immediately. 

Individuals who need to travel for work and need to take the pre-departure COVID-19 PCR swab test can also visit any of the approved clinics to get tested. 

For Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) 

On the other hand, Antigen Rapid Tests are only administered by local government bodies such as the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). If you are organising an event or need to target specific demographics such as migrant workers, you can only engage with an ART service provider that has been pre-approved by the Ministry of Health. 

To view the updated list of approved Antigen Rapid Test (ART) providers in Singapore, click here

Home Swab Testing 

For individuals with elderly family members, it may be a challenge to travel all the way to the clinic for a COVID-19 test. On top of that, being in such environments can increase the risk of being exposed to the virus as well. With that in mind, you should consider home service testing. 

Homage offers COVID-19 PCR swab tests at home. The process is simply and easy, and can be achieved in three simple steps: 

Step 1: Schedule your appointment — Get in touch with our Care Advisors for next-day testing. For same-day testing, please book your appointment before 10 am. 

Step 2: Get tested at home — On your scheduled appointment, our trained medical professional will conduct the COVID-19 swab test with strict SOPs to keep you and your family safe. 

Step 3: Wait for your results — In just two days, our Care Advisors will call you to inform you of your results and advise on the next steps, if any. 

From mobility considerations and the element of privacy, to safety concerns and convenience, home swab testing hosts a wide variety of benefits for you and your loved ones and ultimately keeps you safe from unnecessary exposure. 

Get swab-tested at home with Homage

In light of the heightened restrictions as a result of the recent rise in community cases, we are all highly encouraged to stay home to flatten the curve. But if you’ve been exposed, have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or work in high-risk sectors, you should consider booking a COVID-19 home swab test.

With Homage’s comprehensive PCR swab testing services, you can stay safe and protected in the fight against COVID-19 in the comfort of your own home. 

Learn more about Homage’s COVID-19 home swab test services and book an appointment with us today.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Test for Past Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html.
  2. March 11, 2021, March 10, 2021, & February 2, 2021. (n.d.). Coronavirus Antibodies Prevent Reinfection. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/coronavirus-antibodies-protect-against-future-infection.

Download our app today or call our Care Advisors at +65 6100 0055 for a free care consult.
About the Writer
Hannah Grey
Hannah is an all-around creative with a flair for travel and photography. She also only has her coffee black, which should be the only way to drink it.
Make Home Care Personal To Your Loved One

Make Home Care Personal To Your Loved One

Get started with a free consultation today, and learn why thousands of Singaporeans trust Homage to deliver the best care in their homes.

Get Care Now