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General Testing Information

Asymptomatic vs. Symptomatic Testing

On-campus testing is available for students, faculty, and staff throughout the quarter. There are two types of testing which dictate where you will go to be tested. It is important that you understand the difference between these:

Assurance, Recurring or Surveillance Testing: If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms. You may hear this referred to as “asymptomatic” testing.  

Diagnostic Testing: If you do have COVID-19 symptoms (“symptomatic”) or you were identified as a close contact from contact tracing.

Types of Tests and Collection

Regardless of whether your test is asymptomatic or symptomatic, Northwestern is utilizing PCR tests across all testing sites. These tests provide high levels of accuracy, with very low levels of false positive or false negative results.

Depending on when and where you take your test, it may be provided by different laboratories. Northwestern has established partnerships with Northwestern Medicine, Tempus, and Fulgent Genetics to support its COVID-19 tests.

All asymptomatic testing is done by a self-collected, observed, simple nasal swab (“anterior nare”). Symptomatic and contact tracing testing is done with a nasal pharyngeal swab.

Consents and Privacy

Testing is a medical procedure, and Northwestern University and Northwestern Medicine take your privacy seriously. When registering for your test, either onsite or online, you will be required to sign a Consent for Testing and Diagnosis and Informed Consent to Northwestern's COVID-19 Testing Program.

Please also review NMHC's Notice of Privacy Practices, as well as its independent lab's Privacy Policy and Notice of Privacy Practices.

What to Expect

While the experience might be slightly different depending on what location you test at, watching the video below will give you a good idea of what to expect during your asymptomatic testing visit.

For all on campus tests, you should bring your Wildcard and know your NetID – these will be important.