objective: to describe the neuropsychological profile of mild cognitive impairment subtypes (amnestic, non-amnestic and multiple-domain) of a clinical sample. we further address the diagnostic properties of the mini-mental state examination and the cambridge cognitive examination for the identification of the different mild cognitive impairment subtypes in clinical practice. method: cross-sectional clinical and neuropsychological evaluation of 249 elderly patients attending a memory clinic at a university hospital in sao paulo, brazil. results: the performance of patients with mild cognitive impairment was heterogeneous across the different subtests of the neuropsychological battery, with a trend towards an overall worse performance for amnestic (particularly multiple domain) mild cognitive impairment as compared to non-amnestic subtypes. screening tests for dementia (mini-mental state examination and cambridge cognitive examination) adequately discriminated cases of mild alzheimer's disease from controls, but they were not accurate to discriminate patients with mild cognitive impairment (all subtypes) from control subjects. conclusions: the discrimination of mild cognitive impairment subtypes was possible only with the aid of a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment. it is necessary to develop new strategies for mild cognitive impairment screening in clinical practice.