Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing is routinely performed on oropharyngeal carcinomas. We compared the Access Genetics (Minneapolis, MN) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay (AGPCR), DNA-DNA in situ hybridization (ISH; Ventana, Tucson, AZ), and HPV-16 E7 PCR amplification in consecutively accessioned oropharyngeal cancers. We tested 126 cases by both PCR methods; 102 were positive by either for a maximum positive rate (MPR) of 81.0%. Relative to the MPR, the sensitivities of AGPCR and E7 PCR were 90.2% and 72.5%, respectively. Of 17 AGPCR+ cases tested by ISH, 14/14 unequivocally positive/negative were concordant. All cases (97/97) positive by either PCR assay were positive for p16. There was no relationship between level of histologic differentiation and HPV status. ISH and AGPCR have comparable performance for the detection of HPV in oropharyngeal carcinomas. PCR is a suitable and economical assay that is comparable to ISH in sensitivity and may provide logistical advantages relative to ISH for assessing HPV status in oropharyngeal malignancies. However, it is imperative that appropriate sensitivity controls be in place for such assays.