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About the Tests

There are different types of COVID-19 tests to choose from at the Boise State Public Health Testing Center. Please review the following information to determine which COVID-19 testing options may be best for you.  In addition, if you are required to have a COVID-19 test as part of travel or work, please check with those requiring the test to ensure you get the type of test you need.

Laboratory Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR Test)

  • Looks for genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 viruses by using sophisticated chemicals and equipment to reproduce millions to billions of copies of viral-related DNA from even the smallest sample.
  • Sample is an anterior nasal swab
  • Results usually in 1-2 business days
  • Results are reliable for people with and without symptoms
  • No follow-up test required
  • For young children, a saliva-based test can be performed but will only test for COVID-19, not influenza.

PCR is the most preferred and accurate type of COVID-19 test.

PCR or nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) are typically the most reliable tests for people with or without symptoms. These tests detect viral genetic material, which may stay in your body for up to 90 days after you test positive.

PCR COVID-19/Flu tests are available by appointment at the Public Health Testing Center on campus. In most cases, insurance will cover the full cost of the PCR test. For more billing information, please visit our Testing Service and Charges page.

Information about At-Home Testing

It is important to read the complete manufacturer’s instructions before using an at-home test.  If you do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions, your test result may be incorrect.

  • Positive results from at-home tests are highly reliable.
  • Negative results from at-home tests do not rule out COVID-19 infection. A negative at-home test result may not be reliable, especially if you have symptoms associated with COVID-19. If you are symptomatic and receive negative results from an at-home test, it is recommended that you test again with a PCR test and isolate while awaiting results.
  • Invalid results from at-home tests mean the test did not work properly, and a new test is needed to get an accurate result.

To learn more about at-home testing, please visit the CDC’s Self-Testing At Home or Anywhere page.

At-Home COVID-19 Test Expiration Dates

Most COVID-19 home test kits have received expiration extensions from the FDA. To see if a manufacturer’s COVID-19 test kit has an expiration extension, see the List of Authorized At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests.

Regardless of the type of COVID-19 test you select or where you are tested, a positive test result means that you are infected with COVID-19 and should stay home from campus, isolate from others and contact Boise State Public Health at or (208) 426-1523 immediately to determine next steps.

To learn more about COVID-19 testing options, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know page.