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Which Excel Formulas should you learn first?

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Let’s face it. You already know the SUMs & COUNTs of Excel. But what should you learn next? There are more than 400 functions in Excel and most of them are useless for day-to-day situations. So, in this page, let me highlight the TOP 10 EXCEL FUNCTIONS for data analysis work.

What are the important Excel functions

The TOP 10 Excel Functions

Here are the top 10 functions you should learn and master first. 

TOP 10 Excel functions - Video

If you want to understand what these functions are how to use them either read on or watch the below video. 

Play Video

1. SUMIFS

Use SUMIFS to add up values that meet one or more conditions. Example uses:

  • Total sales to England
  • Total donations made to charity cause A in the last 7 days

👉🏼 SUMIFS Syntax 

SUMIFS(values you want to add,
condition 1 range, condition 1,
condition 2 range, condition 2…)

💡 SUMIFS example

=SUMIFS(A1:A10, B1:B10, “London”)
Adds up all values in A1:A10 where B1:B10 is London

2. XLOOKUP

Use XLOOKUP to search for a value in a list and return corresponding value from another list. For example:

  • Get due date for invoice number 934
  • Find price for the product code PR023

👉🏼 XLOOKUP Syntax 

XLOOKUP(value to find,
list to look in,
what do you want to get,

what to do if not found)

💡 XLOOKUP example

=XLOOKUP(“Almond Choco”, Product[name], Product[price])
Finds the price of Almond Choco in the Product table.

3. FILTER

Use FILTER to filter a list or table and see matching results for your criteria. This is a dynamic array function. That means, if there are more than one values, Excel automatically spills the values and shows them on the sheet. For example:

  • List all sales records for “John”
  • Find out which students have attended all sessions of Physics-301 class.

👉🏼 FILTER Syntax 

FILTER(your data, filter criteria
what to show if no values are filtered)

💡 FILTER example

=FILTER(Product, Product[price]>20)
Lists all the Product table rows where the price is more than 20.

4. COUNTIFS

Use COUNTIFS to count how many values meet one or more conditions in your data. For example:

  • Number of times “Adam” exceeded $1,000 order value
  • How many recipes use Paprika?

👉🏼 COUNTIFS Syntax 

COUNTIFS(condition 1 list, condition 1,
condition 2 list, condition 2…)

💡 COUNTIFS example

=COUNTIFS(Orders[name], “Adam”, Orders[value],”>1000″)
Counts how many times Adam’s order value is more than 1000.

5. INDEX

Use INDEX to get a value in a list by specifying the position. INDEX formula returns the reference instead of a value. This makes it quite versatile. It is my favorite Excel function.

For example:

  • What is the 12th item in the invoice list?
  • Get all the values in 3rd column of the order data.

👉🏼 INDEX Syntax 

INDEX(your data, row number, column number)

💡 INDEX example

=INDEX(FILTER(Product[name], Product[price]>20), 3)
Returns the 3rd product name which has price more than 20. Here, INDEX is reading the output of FILTER.

6. EDATE

Use EDATE to calculate a future or past date after a specified number of months.

For example:

  • What is the date 7 months after project start date?
  • What is the date exactly two years ago from today?

👉🏼 EDATE Syntax 

EDATE(date, months)

💡 EDATE example

=EDATE(TODAY(), -24)

Returns the date exactly two years ago from today.

7. UNIQUE

Use UNIQUE to remove any duplicates in your list. This is a Dynamic Array Function, so Excel will return and spill multiple values if needed.

For example:

  • What products are sold?
  • Which students have joined only one sports club?

👉🏼 UNIQUE Syntax 

UNIQUE(your data)

💡 UNIQUE example

=UNIQUE(Order[Product])

Returns all the products from Order table. If a product appears multiple times, it will show up only once.

8. TEXTJOIN

Use TEXTJOIN to combine a bunch of values with a specified delimiter.

For example:

  • Combine all product names to one text value with comma delimited.
  • All names of students who joined Maths 203 course in March 2022.

👉🏼 TEXTJOIN Syntax 

TEXTJOIN(delimiter, ignore empty values?, your data)

💡 TEXTJOIN example

=TEXTJOIN(“, “,TRUE, 
FILTER(Enrollments[name], Enrollments[course]=”Maths-203″))

Combines all student names in the Maths-203 program in comma separated format.

9. SORT

Use SORT to sort a list or table in ascending or descending order. This is a Dynamic Array Function, so Excel will spill your outputs as needed.

For example:

  • Sort the Orders table to show highest values on top.
  • List students by department and name in alphabetical order.

👉🏼 SORT Syntax 

SORT(your data, sort column, sort order)

💡 SORT example

=SORT(Enrollments, {1,2}, {1,1})

Sorts the Enrollments table in the ascending (alphabetical) order by department and student name (columns 1 & 2 of the table).

10. IFERROR

Use IFERROR to stop error messages from showing up on the screen.

For example:

  • Calculate sales commission but print 0 if there is an error.
  • Get the 10th item of a filtered list, but show “not enough items” if there is an error.

👉🏼 IFERROR Syntax 

IFERROR(your formula, error message to show)

💡 IFERROR example

=IFERROR(INDEX(FILTER(Product[name], Product[price]>20), 10), “Not enough items”)

Tries to get the 10th product with price >20, but if there is an error, prints “Not enough items”.

Download Example Workbook

Download the example workbook

I have prepared an Excel file with 20+ examples for these important functions. Click here to download and play with the workbook.

Change the values / formulas or use the data set to develop your own formulas.

More on Formulas & Functions

If you are just starting out, I suggest focusing and mastering the above 10 functions first. But if you are ready to next level, then go thru the below articles & resources for more.

Happy learning.

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