How to Create a Pareto Chart in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Creating a Pareto chart in Excel is pretty straightforward. You’ll need to enter your data, sort it in descending order, calculate cumulative percentages, and then use Excel’s built-in chart features to make the chart. In just a few steps, you can visually identify the most significant factors contributing to an issue.

How to Create a Pareto Chart in Excel

By the end of these steps, you’ll have a Pareto chart that visually displays the most important causes of a problem or situation. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Open Excel and Enter Your Data

Enter your data into an Excel spreadsheet in two columns: one for categories and one for values.

In the first column, list the categories (e.g., types of defects). In the second column, list the corresponding values (e.g., number of defects).

Step 2: Sort Your Data

Sort the data in descending order based on the values.

Highlight the value column and go to the "Data" tab. Click "Sort Z to A" to sort the values from highest to lowest. This will make the most significant categories appear at the top.

Step 3: Calculate Cumulative Percentages

Create a new column to calculate the cumulative percentages of the values.

In the first cell of this new column, divide the first value by the total sum of all values. Drag this formula down to calculate the cumulative sum for each category.

Step 4: Insert a Combo Chart

Highlight all your data, including the cumulative percentages, and go to the "Insert" tab. Choose the Combo Chart option.

Select "Clustered Column – Line on Secondary Axis" as your chart type. This will create a chart with bars representing the values and a line representing the cumulative percentage.

Step 5: Format the Chart

Format your chart to make it more readable.

Click on the chart to bring up the "Chart Tools." Use the "Design" and "Format" tabs to customize your chart. Add data labels, adjust axis titles, and change colors as needed.

Once all the steps are completed, your Pareto chart will highlight the most significant factors contributing to your problem or situation. You’ll easily see which categories are the most critical.

Tips for Creating a Pareto Chart in Excel

  • Make sure your data is accurate and complete before creating the chart.
  • Consistently use labels and titles to make the chart understandable.
  • Utilize Excel templates if you’re short on time.
  • Double-check cumulative percentages to ensure accuracy.
  • Use contrasting colors for bars and lines to improve readability.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Pareto chart?

A Pareto chart is a type of bar chart that shows the most important factors in a data set. It’s based on the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of problems come from 20% of causes.

Why should I use a Pareto chart?

A Pareto chart helps you quickly identify the most significant factors in a problem. It allows you to prioritize your efforts on the areas that will have the most impact.

Can I create a Pareto chart in Excel without sorting my data?

No, for the chart to be accurate, you need to sort your data in descending order based on values.

What are cumulative percentages?

Cumulative percentages show the running total of the percentages of your data, helping you see the contribution of each category to the overall total.

Do I need to use a Combo Chart for a Pareto chart?

Yes, using a Combo Chart with bars for values and a line for cumulative percentages visually distinguishes the importance of each category.

Summary of Steps

  1. Open Excel and enter your data.
  2. Sort your data.
  3. Calculate cumulative percentages.
  4. Insert a Combo Chart.
  5. Format the chart.


Creating a Pareto chart in Excel is a simple yet powerful way to analyze data. By following the steps outlined, you can quickly identify the most critical factors contributing to an issue. This will help you prioritize your efforts and make data-driven decisions. With a variety of formatting options, you can customize the chart to meet your needs and create a visually appealing and informative tool.

Whether you’re solving business problems or analyzing personal data, a Pareto chart can provide valuable insights. So, give it a try and see how it can help you! Don’t forget to check out further resources or tutorials if you want to dive deeper into Excel’s capabilities.

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