How to Practice Excel Functions


Microsoft Excel can model dozens of functions. These include mathematical, statistical and logical functions. In order to practice using Excel functions, you must first decide what kind of functions you will need to use in the future. To check a set of data to see if certain conditions are met, use logic or information functions; to solve equations or graph mathematical expressions, use mathematical functions; to track your spending, use financial functions. There are many other categories besides these, so choose carefully.

  • Enter the data you want to manipulate into a spreadsheet. If you don't have a data set to use, then write out a spreadsheet containing "dummy" data as a placeholder.

  • Write out a series of steps that shows what you want to do. For example, if you want to find the average monthly earnings of ten different employees, the steps may run like this: 1) Add up the yearly earnings for each employee separately, 2) Find the average among the yearly earnings, 3) Divide by twelve.

  • Find or write a function for each step in your plan. There may be a function that does more than one step, or you may have to split some steps into multiple functions. Generally speaking, if a graphing calculator can do it, Excel can probably do it, too. You can accomplish the list in Step 2 using the SUM and AVERAGE functions: first use the SUM function in three different cells, then the AVERAGE function in a fourth cell, using the first three as arguments, and then divide this function by four.

  • Check your list of functions to see if it can be improved or made simpler. For example, rather than taking separate averages in Step 3, you can pass every monthly entry in each employee's earnings to a single AVERAGE function. All things being equal, the simplest spreadsheets are usually the best.


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