How to Use Excel Frequency Functions


Introduction to Frequency Functions

Microsoft Excel has numerous built-in frequency functions that allow users to analyze and report data in various ways. Frequency functions can help you categorize your data, find patterns in it, or identify how often a value appears.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of frequency functions in Excel, such as COUNTIF, COUNTIFS, FREQUENCY, and more.

What is a Frequency Function?

A frequency function is a type of statistical function commonly used in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to calculate how often values occur within a range of values. The frequency function enables users to quickly compare several sets of data and analyze the distribution patterns within each set.

Frequency functions use two ranges: one range is the data source and the other range defines which data points should be counted. When the Excel frequency function counts each value in the source range, it adds up all occurrences that meet the criteria defined by a criteria range and then stores them in an output array (a special Excel area that holds numerical data).

The most commonly used frequency functions are FREQUENCY, COUNTIFS and COUNTIF. Each function is designed to solve different types of problems, so users should read through their documentations first before deciding which one fits their needs best. FREQUENCY helps you count how often values meet certain criteria; COUNTIFS will count if multiple conditions are met; and COUNTIF will only count when one condition is met.

When using any of these functions, it’s important for users to remember syntax formatting since this can affect the outcome of your analysis. To ensure accurate results, make sure to define sequences correctly by nesting parentheses as needed and including proper quotation marks around text strings in your formulas.

Types of Frequency Functions

Excel offers two functions that can be used to create frequency distributions – FREQUENCY and COUNTIFS. Both of these functions work in similar ways and provide a way to group data into categories.

The FREQUENCY function counts the number of numeric values in a specified range and classifies them into bins or ranges provided by the user. The function can be configured for intervals that are non-contiguous or overlapping, depending on the needs of your analysis. By default, FREQUENCY returns an array that is one column wider than the data range you specify; this enables it to return both the frequencies and cumulative frequencies associated with each bin or range.

The COUNTIFS function works similarly to the Frequency function but provides more flexibility in terms of how you set up bins or ranges for grouping your data values. This makes it useful for complex analysis such as when you need to identify gaps in your data ranges (e.g., counts of values less than a specific value). This function also has additional arguments that allow you to select specific conditions (such as wildcards), making it useful for tasks like counting blank cells in a column or rows that meet certain criteria.

Using the FREQUENCY Function

The FREQUENCY function in Microsoft Excel can be used to find the number of values in a range that fit within a specific set of criteria. It is a useful tool for summarizing data and grouping information. By leveraging this powerful function, you can quickly obtain aggregate data from more complex sets.

Let’s explore how to use this function in more detail.

Syntax of the FREQUENCY Function

The syntax of the FREQUENCY function is as follows:

FREQUENCY(data_array, bins_array)

This function requires two arguments. The first argument, data_array, is required and represents an array of data values that you want to count and categorize. The second argument, bins_array, is also required and lists the intervals into which the data values will be grouped.

It is important to note that when using this function in formulas, you must enter a range to define the bins (bins_array). This means that if you are entering a formula manually into a cell in Excel, these references must contain absolute references to keep from changing every time you copy/paste the formula down. Additionally, depending on how many categories you want for your frequency distribution (this can be altered by adding more intervals that are used for your bins), you must enter additional absolute references for each interval in your bins array. To do this manually would involve typing out each value with dollar signs before both its column and row designation. It can get very tedious if there are many categories!

Examples of the FREQUENCY Function

The FREQUENCY function in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel is a helpful tool for calculating the number of times values occur within a range of data. It can be used to calculate occurrences such as the frequency of letters, numbers, or associations between categories. By following these simple steps, you can quickly use the FREQUENCY function to find this data in your own spreadsheets.

Examples of the FREQUENCY Function:

  1. Finding the frequency of each letter grade in a spreadsheet column: The formula to use would be =FREQUENCY(C2:C15,F2:F5), where C2:C15 represents the cell range containing letter grades and F2:F5 represents the cell range containing A through D for their respective values.
  2. Determining how many times each month occurred within a list of dates: The formula for this example would be =FREQUENCY(A2:A10,B1:O1), where A2 represents the start cell containing dates, and B1 and O1 contain month abbreviations from January (Jan) through December (Dec).
  3. Calculating how often each day occurred within a list of dates: The formula here would be =FREQUENCY(A2:A20,B1;O1), but instead B1 contains day integers from 1 through 7 (in order signifying Sunday – Saturday).

By understanding how to correctly use frequency functions in your spreadsheets, you can quickly and accurately determine frequency results when needed.

Using the COUNTIF Function

The COUNTIF function is a handy Excel function that can be used to count the number of cells within a range of values that match specified criteria. This function can be a great way to quickly count the occurrences of certain values or items in a given range. Moreover, it can also be used to troubleshoot data inconsistencies and errors.

Let’s dive into the details and see how we can use the COUNTIF function in Excel.

Syntax of the COUNTIF Function

The syntax of the COUNTIF function is COUNTIF(range,criteria). The range argument is the set of cells that you want to count, while the criteria argument specifies which cells should be counted.

For example, if you wanted to count how many times a particular value appears in a range of cells, you would enter the following formula: COUNTIF(A1:A10, 7). This would give you a count of every cell in range A1:A10 that is equal to 7.

You can also use wildcard characters with the COUNTIF function. For instance, if you wanted to get a count of every cell that starts with “be”, you would enter this formula: COUNTIF(A1:A10,"be*").

Finally, the COUNTIF function allows for using logical operators such as “>” and “<” for counting numbers that occur compared to specific values. For example, if we wanted to get a count of all employees who are over 18 years old from our spreadsheet, we’d enter this formula: COUNTIF(B2:B20,">18").

Examples of the COUNTIF Function

The COUNTIF function in Microsoft Excel allows users to easily count the number of occurrences of a given value in a dataset. This can be a useful tool for data analysis as it provides an efficient way to check frequencies and analyze patterns.

Below are some examples of how this function can be used:

  1. Count the number of values in a range that are greater than 10:
  2. Count the number of cells in a range with specific text “Yes”:
  3. Count the number of cells containing “apples” or “oranges” in a range:
  4. Count the number of cells in a range with values between 50 and 100:
    =COUNTIF(A1:G100,”>50″, “<100”)

Using the COUNTIFS Function

The COUNTIFS function is a powerful Excel function that counts the number of cells in a range that meet one or more criteria. It is especially useful when you need to count cells with multiple criteria that may or may not intersect.

In this article, we will look at how to use this function and explore its features.

Syntax of the COUNTIFS Function

The syntax of the COUNTIFS function is as follows:

COUNTIFS(range1, criteria1, [range2], [criteria2], …)

This function has up to 127 range/criteria pairs and allows you to apply multiple criteria across a data set. The ranges and criteria can be constants or cells that contain the constants.

  • In the first argument ‘range1’, you must specify a range of cells that includes at least one cell. When specifying multiple ranges, each must have the same number of rows and columns. You may use up to 254 additional ranges.
  • In each of ‘criteriaN’ arguments, you can enter a specific value (i.e Value_if_true) or use any logical expression including comparison operators such as; equal to (=), not equal to (<>), greater than (>), less than (<) and text values enclosed in quotation marks (” “).
  • In addition to this you may also enter array arguments containing multiple values such as; SUM(A1:A4=”value”).
  • Finally, when specifying multiple criteria each can include an AND or OR comparison operator for use with more complex logic.

Examples of the COUNTIFS Function

The syntax of the COUNTIFS function is as follows: COUNTIFS ( criteria_range1 , criteria1 , [criteria_range2, criteria2],…). Let us look at some examples of the COUNTIFS function to understand this argument better.

Example 1: Counting based on multiple conditions I have a dataset of orders that looks something like this:

  • Order Number | Customer Name | Product | Amount
  • 1 | Alex Smith | Pen | $10
  • 2 | John Doe | Pencil| $5
  • 3 | Andrew Black | Pen | $20
  • 4 | Alex Smith | Paper | $15

Suppose I need to calculate how many orders there were for the product “pen” and customer “Alex Smith”. In this case, my criteria range 1 will be column B and criteria 1 will be “Alex Smith” and my criteria range 2 will be column C and criteria 2 will be “Pen”. The formula would look like this: =COUNTIFS(B2:B5,“Alex Smith”,C2:C5,“Pen”). The result is 1, as expected.

Example 2 : Ignoring exact match of text strings In this example, we have a list of past customers and I need to determine how many out of those are from USA. Since not all the customer addresses might include USA in their exact form (e.g. United States may appear instead), we want to ignore exact match in our count based on text matching condition. In such cases, you can use wildcard characters with your criteria string so that all the cells that contain USA in any form are counted into your result set. The formula would look like this: =COUNTIFS(B2:B5,“*USA*”). The result is 3 as expected – irrespective if USA was mentioned together or separately in any part within address field for each record/row in data set.


In this guide, we explored the frequency functions available in Excel and how they can be used to your advantage. Excel’s ability to quickly analyze large datasets can be especially useful for business owners, since it can save time and effort on complex calculations. These frequency functions are powerful and easy to use, so it’s worth taking the time to learn them.

Summary of Frequency Functions

Excel Frequency functions are a great tool to use when you want to analyze and interpret data in the form of numbers. You can use these functions to calculate the number of times values exist in a given range, create lists of numbers, or chart data by groups.

Frequency functions are incredibly versatile and allow users to quickly find almost any information they need from their data. Excel includes four different Frequency functions: FREQUENCY, COUNTIFS, RANKX, and PERCENTILE.EXC. Each has its own set of features that make it useful in its own way.

  • FREQUENCY function is used when analyzing raw data on a numerical scale such as test results or customer ratings. It can tell you how many members of your data set belong to each grouping (e.g., 0-3, 4-7, 8-11) based on the parameters set up for the analysis.
  • COUNTIFS function can be used when counting items based on criteria e.g., counting the number of customers located in certain cities or states within your dataset. This function is especially useful if you’re looking at large sets with multiple criteria ranges and returns an array with count information based on the selection criteria specified for each range individually.
  • RANKX function is best used when comparing individual values within a range of sorted values such as understanding where per capita income ranks amongst states within a given country’s population size or where sales performance ranks against competitors within the same selling time frame for a particular product line shown above different categories/quarters/months etc. This function returns an array with rank information that tells you what rank each value has within its group; however, keep in mind that it’s important to also include any tied scores when analyzing this type of data as ties mean that there could be more than one “#1” choice if tied scores were not calculated with the other rankings previously mentioned (i.e. ‘2nd place tied with 3rd).
  • PERCENTILE.EXC Function is great for calculating quartiles, which can be very helpful in analyzing your datasets further when important information like salary ranges or age ranges may be hidden somewhere near the middle ground (40th percentile, 50th percentile). As this function only works on sorted data, it’s important to make sure that your dataset has already been sorted from lowest value first before attempting this type of analysis so as not skew outcomes per percentile calculation results.

Tips for Using Frequency Functions

Using Excel frequency functions can be a great way to make sense of the data that you input into the program. To help you get the most out of this feature, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Perform some basic calculations first: Before using frequency functions, it’s best to do some basic calculations such as finding the average or sum value of your data. This will give you a baseline for calculating frequency values; greater insight implies more accurate results.
  2. Get familiar with all of your options: In addition to its Frequency functions, Excel also has capabilities for analyzing data by counting its occurrences and determining percentages. Take time to get familiar with all of these features and determine which one works best for your needs.
  3. Use filters on large datasets: If you’re working with a large dataset, filters can help you quickly spot patterns or errors by sorting values according to manually specified criteria (for example flagging any value above 100). Filters also let you more efficiently guide your use of Excel frequency functions by generating subsets suitable for further analysis using these tools.
  4. Make sure formulas are properly set up: Finally, make sure that any formulas used in frequency function calculations are properly set up; depending on your data input type the exact syntax could differ considerably even though the same tool is at play (i.e., AVERAGEIF vs AVERAGEIFS).