What is a Function?

Learning Outcomes

  • Define functions in Microsoft Excel

A function is a preexisting formula in Excel that does calculations based on specific values. In previous modules, you learned a few Excel functions: COUNTIF, IF, and SUM. Excel offers hundreds of functions from broadly used to highly specialized. For now, we will focus on financial, logical and look-up functions and formulas.

Practice Question

A few general tips to remember about functions and formulas:

  • Functions begin with an equal sign. Excel will begin suggesting functions as soon as you begin typing the equal sign.
  • Functions take one or more arguments, with cell references or numbers, enclosed in parentheses.
    • When a function needs more than one argument, enter a comma between the arguments without a space and close the formula inside of parentheses.
    • There are multiple ways to enter functions in Excel; type in the formula bar under the ribbon (1), clicking on the fx button by the formula bar (2), select a cell and type = (3), select the Formulas tab Insert Function button (4) or select a specific function based on a category in the Formulas tab (5).
Excel screenshot of three ways to enter a formula in Excel. Excel screenshot of two more ways to identify and enter a formula in Excel.

Practice Question

These next functions and formulas build out your skills in Excel and assist you with business, science, statistics and many other types of data analysis. Let’s get started.