Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is often associated with the preclinical phase of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Special scoring of word-list recall data for serial position has been suggested to improve discrimination of normal aging from dementia. We examined serial position effects in word-list recall for MCI participants compared to Alzheimer patients and controls. Individuals with MCI, like Alzheimer patients, had a diminished primacy effect in recalling words from a list. No alternative scoring system was better than standard scoring of word-list recall in distinguishing MCI patients from controls. Retention weighted scoring improved the discrimination of MCI and AD groups.