Episodic memory tests that measure cued recall may be particularly effective in the diagnosis of early Alzheimer's disease (AD) because they examine both episodic and semantic memory functions. The Category Cued Recall (CCR) test provides superordinate semantic cues at encoding and retrieval, and high discriminative validity has been claimed for this test. The aim of this study was to investigate the discriminative validity for this test when compared with the 10-word memory list from Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog) that measures free recall. The clinical diagnosis of AD was taken as the standard. It was also investigated whether the two episodic memory tests correlated with measures of semantic memory. The tests were administered to 35 patients with very mild AD (Mini Mental State Examination score > 22) and 28 control subjects. Both tests had high sensitivity (>88%) with high specificity (>89%). One out of the five semantic memory tests was significantly correlated to performances on CCR, whereas delayed recall on the ADAS-cog memory test was significantly correlated to two semantic tests. In conclusion, the discriminative validity of the CCR test and the ADAS-cog memory test was equivalent in very mild AD. This may be because CCR did not tap more semantic processes, which are impaired in the earliest phases of AD, than a test of free recall.