Episodic memory tasks are one of the most sensitive tools to discriminate Alzheimer's disease (AD). This study aimed to validate a shorter version verbal memory test that will efficiently assess Chinese elderly with memory complaints. One hundred and eighty-five elderly with normal cognition (NC) and 217 AD patients were evaluated. Each participant received the Chinese Version Verbal Learning Test (CVVLT) consisting of 9 two-character nouns with 4 learning trials, 2 delayed recalls in 30 seconds and 10 minutes, and a word recognition test. In the NC elderly, age and sex had significant effects on recall scores in CVVLT, while education level showed an inverse correlation with 3 different patterns of errors made during the learning, recall, and recognition trials. AD patients had lower scores across all recall tests. In those with lower educational level, NC elderly had higher perseveration errors than AD patients. The cutoff value between the AD and NC groups in the 10-minute recall was 4/5 for those aged >75 years and 5/6 for those aged <75 years. This study has good validity in discriminating AD participants and the data here can help in diagnosing AD and mild cognitive impairment using the CVVLT.