The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative at NIH is accelerating development and distribution of COVID-19 tests across the country. 

Get answers to some common questions about COVID-19 testing.

Understanding COVID-19 Testing

How do I get tested?
COVID testing location sign

If you have COVID-19 symptoms and want to get tested, contact your healthcare provider first. Your state health department’s website may also have information on local testing. You can also get a self-test or at-home test.

How can I get an at-home test?
Pharmacy shelves

Over-the-counter rapid testing for COVID-19 is now widely available in stores, or you can do a drive-through self-test at a pharmacy, for example. Learn more about self-testing, including how to swab yourself, from the CDC. 

NIH supports initiatives to make safe, fast, and easy-to-use COVID-19 tests available for self-testing. On March 1, 2021, NIH launched a study to assess the performance and usability of the Quidel QuickVue At-Home COVID-19 Test. 

Read the news release 

What are the types of COVID-19 tests?
COVID test being held

viral, or diagnostic, test looks for current infection. There are two types of viral tests:

  • The antigen test (also called the “rapid test”) gives results in as little as 15 minutes. You are more likely to get a false negative result from the antigen test. If you have symptoms but get a negative test result from the antigen test, your doctor may give you a molecular test to confirm the results.

  • The molecular test can take up to a week to provide results.

An antibody test is designed to tell you whether you had an infection in the past.

Watch a video to learn more about COVID-19 tests

Can I get tested without a nasal swab?
COVID test being held

A nasal swab is still the primary way to collect a sample to test for COVID-19. However, in some locations, a saliva sample can be used instead. Check with your healthcare provider about the options in your area.

Learn about new tests on the horizon

What is NIH’s role in the development of COVID-19 testing?
Research test kit

Since the pandemic began, NIH has moved quickly to support expansion of fast, accurate testing methods to help save lives and prevent further spread of COVID-19. Through its RADx initiative, NIH issued a challenge to the nation’s inventors and innovators to develop safe and easy-to-use tests for COVID-19. NIH has awarded nearly half a billion dollars in manufacturing contracts to help rapidly scale up the United States’ testing capacity.  

Learn how the RADx-Tech program advanced diagnostic testing for COVID-19 

COVID-19 Testing Resources

Information about tests and a symptoms checker

Facts about how tests are regulated and what tests are currently approved

Information about where and how to get tested and how to deal with bills