Excel Primer on Formula and Functions


 Formulas and functions are the building blocks of working with numeric data in Excel. This article introduces you to formulas and functions.

In this article, we will cover the following topics.

Tutorials Data

For this tutorial, we will work with the following datasets.

Home supplies budget

1 Mangoes 9 600
2 Oranges 3 1200
3 Tomatoes 1 2500
4 Cooking Oil 5 6500
5 Tonic Water 13 3900

House Building Project Schedule

1 Survey land 04/02/2015 07/02/2015
2 Lay Foundation 10/02/2015 15/02/2015
3 Roofing 27/02/2015 03/03/2015
4 Painting 09/03/2015 21/03/2015


What is Formulas in Excel?

FORMULAS IN EXCEL is an expression that operates on values in a range of cell addresses and operators. For example, =A1+A2+A3, which finds the sum of the range of values from cell A1 to cell A3. An example of a formula made up of discrete values like =6*3.

=A2 * D2 / 2

  • "=" tells Excel that this is a formula, and it should evaluate it.
  • "A2" * D2" makes reference to cell addresses A2 and D2 then multiplies the values found in these cell addresses.
  • "/" is the division arithmetic operator
  • "2" is a discrete value

Formulas practical exercise

We will work with the sample data for the home budget to calculate the subtotal.

  • Create a new workbook in Excel
  • Enter the data shown in the home supplies budget above.
  • Your worksheet should look as follows.

 Introduction to formulas and functions in Excel


We will now write the formula that calculates the subtotal

Set the focus to cell E4

Enter the following formula.




  • "C4*D4" uses the arithmetic operator multiplication (*) to multiply the value of the cell address C4 and D4.

Press enter key

You will get the following result:



  • "C4*D4" uses the arithmetic operator multiplication (*) to multiply the value of the cell address C4 and D4.

Press enter key

You will get the following result

 Introduction to formulas and functions in Excel

  The following animated image shows you how to auto-select cell address and apply the same formula to other rows.

 Introduction to formulas and functions in Excel


Mistakes to avoid when working with formulas in Excel

  1. Remember the rules of Brackets of Division, Multiplication, Addition, & Subtraction (BODMAS). This means expressions are brackets are evaluated first. For arithmetic operators, the division is evaluated first followed by multiplication then addition and subtraction is the last one to be evaluated. Using this rule, we can rewrite the above formula as =(A2 * D2) / 2. This will ensure that A2 and D2 are first evaluated then divided by two.
  2. Excel spreadsheet formulas usually work with numeric data; you can take advantage of data validation to specify the type of data that should be accepted by a cell i.e. numbers only.
  3. To ensure that you are working with the correct cell addresses referenced in the formulas, you can press F2 on the keyboard. This will highlight the cell addresses used in the formula, and you can cross check to ensure they are the desired cell addresses.
  4. When you are working with many rows, you can use serial numbers for all the rows and have a record count at the bottom of the sheet. You should compare the serial number count with the record total to ensure that your formulas included all the rows.



Top 10 Excel Spreadsheet Formulas

What is Function in Excel?

FUNCTION IN EXCEL is a predefined formula that is used for specific values in a particular order. The function is used for quick tasks like finding the sum, count, average, maximum value, and minimum values for a range of cells. For example, cell A3 below contains the SUM function which calculates the sum of the range A1:A2.

  • SUM for summation of a range of numbers
  • AVERAGE for calculating the average of a given range of numbers
  • COUNT for counting the number of items in a given range

The importance of functions

Functions increase user productivity when working with excel. Let’s say you would like to get the grand total for the above home supplies budget. To make it simpler, you can use a formula to get the grand total. Using a formula, you would have to reference the cells E4 through to E8 one by one. You would have to use the following formula.


= E4 + E5 + E6 + E7 + E8

With a function, you would write the above formula as:

=SUM (E4:E8)

As you can see from the above function used to get the sum of a range of cells, it is much more efficient to use a function to get the sum than using the formula which will have to reference a lot of cells.

Common functions

Let’s look at some of the most commonly used functions in ms excel formulas. We will start with statistical functions.

01 SUM Math & Trig Adds all the values in a range of cells =SUM(E4:E8)
02 MIN Statistical Finds the minimum value in a range of cells =MIN(E4:E8)
03 MAX Statistical Finds the maximum value in a range of cells =MAX(E4:E8)
04 AVERAGE Statistical Calculates the average value in a range of cells =AVERAGE(E4:E8)
05 COUNT Statistical Counts the number of cells in a range of cells =COUNT(E4:E8)
06 LEN Text Returns the number of characters in a string text =LEN(B7)
07 SUMIF Math & Trig Adds all the values in a range of cells that meet a specified criteria.
08 AVERAGEIF Statistical Calculates the average value in a range of cells that meet the specified criteria.
09 DAYS Date & Time Returns the number of days between two dates =DAYS(D4,C4)
10 NOW Date & Time Returns the current system date and time =NOW()


 Numeric Functions

As the name suggests, these functions operate on numeric data. The following table shows some of the common numeric functions.

1 LEFT Text Returns a number of specified characters from the start (left-hand side) of a string =LEFT(“GURU99”,4) Left 4 Characters of “GURU99”
2 RIGHT Text Returns a number of specified characters from the end (right-hand side) of a string =RIGHT(“GURU99”,2) Right 2 Characters of “GURU99”
3 MID Text Retrieves a number of characters from the middle of a string from a specified start position and length.
=MID (text, start_num, num_chars)
=MID(“GURU99”,2,3) Retrieving Characters 2 to 5
4 ISTEXT Information Returns True if the supplied parameter is Text =ISTEXT(value) value – The value to check.
5 FIND Text Returns the starting position of a text string within another text string. This function is case-sensitive.
=FIND(find_text, within_text, [start_num])
=FIND(“oo”,”Roofing”,1) Find oo in “Roofing”, Result is 2
6 REPLACE Text Replaces part of a string with another specified string.
=REPLACE (old_text, start_num, num_chars, new_text)
=REPLACE(“Roofing”,2,2,”xx”) Replace “oo” with “xx”




Excel allows you to manipulate the data using formulas and/or functions. Functions are generally more productive compared to writing formulas. Functions are also more accurate compared to formulas because the margin of making mistakes is very minimum.

Here is a list of important Excel Formula and Function

  • SUM function = =SUM(E4:E8)
  • MIN function = =MIN(E4:E8)
  • MAX function = =MAX(E4:E8)
  • AVERAGE function = =AVERAGE(E4:E8)
  • COUNT function = =COUNT(E4:E8)
  • DAYS function = =DAYS(D4,C4)
  • VLOOKUP function = =VLOOKUP (C12, A4:B8, 2, FALSE)
  • DATE function = =DATE(2020,2,4)


 Thank you to Guru 99






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