The definition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as a precursor for Alzheimers disease (AD) represented an important step forward in diagnosing the illness in its earliest stage. However, diagnoses based principally on cognitive performance have limitations in that there is variability between centers in which tests are employed and in how they are interpreted. Advances in our understanding of imaging and biochemical changes occurring early in the illness have improved our ability to diagnose AD in this early phase and diagnostic criteria for AD have been proposed recently based on such biomarkers. Persons inheriting autosomal dominant mutations causing familial AD (FAD) are essentially certain to develop the disease. In our studies of preclinical persons at-risk for inheriting FAD, we applied MCI diagnostic criteria to carriers of FAD mutations to ascertain the extent to which they identified persons in the earliest stages of the clinical illness. Our results indicate the relative prevalence of MCI subtypes varies considerably depending on the tests used to measure cognition. Furthermore, we found that cognitive complaints in such persons were less predictive of mutation status than were informants reports of cognitive loss. The study of FAD provides an opportunity to test various criteria for early AD and these observations should be taken into consideration in future iterations of such diagnostic criteria.