As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to rise and second waves are reported in some countries, serological test kits and strips are being considered to scale up an adequate laboratory response. This study provides an update on the kinetics of humoral immune response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and performance characteristics of serological protocols (lateral flow assay [LFA], chemiluminescence immunoassay [CLIA] and ELISA) used for evaluations of recent and past SARS-CoV-2 infection. A thorough and comprehensive review of suitable and eligible full-text articles was performed on PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Wordometer and medRxiv from 10 January to 16 July 2020. These articles were searched using the Medical Subject Headings terms 'COVID-19', 'Serological assay', 'Laboratory Diagnosis', 'Performance characteristics', 'POCT', 'LFA', 'CLIA', 'ELISA' and 'SARS-CoV-2'. Data from original research articles on SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection ≥second day postinfection were included in this study. In total, there were 7938 published articles on humoral immune response and laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19. Of these, 74 were included in this study. The detection, peak and decline period of blood anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgM, IgG and total antibodies for point-of-care testing (POCT), ELISA and CLIA vary widely. The most promising of these assays for POCT detected anti-SARS-CoV-2 at day 3 postinfection and peaked on the 15th day; ELISA products detected anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG at days 2 and 6 then peaked on the eighth day; and the most promising CLIA product detected anti-SARS-CoV-2 at day 1 and peaked on the 30th day. The most promising LFA, ELISA and CLIA that had the best performance characteristics were those targeting total SARS-CoV-2 antibodies followed by those targeting anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG then IgM. Essentially, the CLIA-based SARS-CoV-2 tests had the best performance characteristics, followed by ELISA then POCT. Given the varied performance characteristics of all the serological assays, there is a need to continuously improve their detection thresholds, as well as to monitor and re-evaluate their performances to assure their significance and applicability for COVID-19 clinical and epidemiological purposes. © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.