How to Get Variance in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

When it comes to crunching numbers, Excel is a powerhouse that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. One of those things is calculating variance, which is a measure of how much a set of numbers is spread out. Whether you’re dealing with test scores, financial data, or any other set of numbers, getting the variance can give you a lot of insight. Here’s a quick guide on how to do it.

How to Get Variance in Excel

Getting the variance in Excel is straightforward. By following these steps, you’ll be able to calculate it easily. This guide will walk you through each step, ensuring you understand how to get to the final number.

Step 1: Open Excel and Input Data

First, open Excel and input the set of numbers you want to analyze into a column.

After opening Excel, you need to enter your data. This can be any list of numbers that you want to find the variance for. Simply type each number into its cell, one below the other in a single column.

Step 2: Select an Empty Cell for the Result

Next, click on an empty cell where you want the variance result to appear.

Choosing an empty cell is essential because this is where Excel will display the result of your variance calculation. Make sure it is not in the data column to avoid any confusion.

Step 3: Use the VAR.P or VAR.S Function

In the selected cell, type =VAR.P( for population variance or =VAR.S( for sample variance.

The VAR.P function is used when you’re considering the entire population, while VAR.S is for a sample. After typing the function, you need to select the range of data.

Step 4: Select the Data Range

Click and drag to highlight the cells containing your data, or type the cell range manually.

Highlighting the data range tells Excel which numbers to include in the variance calculation. Ensure all relevant cells are included to get an accurate result.

Step 5: Press Enter

Press the Enter key to see the variance displayed in the cell.

Once you press Enter, Excel will instantly calculate and display the variance based on the function and data range you provided.

Once you’ve followed these steps, Excel will show you the variance of your dataset in the cell you selected. This value tells you how spread out the numbers in your dataset are.

Tips for Getting Variance in Excel

  • Double-check your data: Ensure there are no errors or empty cells in the data range.
  • Understand your data type: Use VAR.P for population data and VAR.S for sample data.
  • Use cell references: When selecting the data range manually, use cell references to avoid mistakes.
  • Check format: Ensure the cell displaying the variance is formatted correctly (e.g., number format).
  • Save your work: Always save your Excel file to avoid losing your calculations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between VAR.P and VAR.S?

VAR.P calculates variance for the entire population, while VAR.S is used for a sample of the population.

Can I find variance for non-numeric data?

No, variance calculation requires numeric data only.

What do I do if I get an error?

Check for any empty cells or non-numeric values in your data range.

Can I use these functions for large datasets?

Yes, Excel handles large datasets efficiently, but make sure your computer has enough memory.

Is there a shortcut for selecting the data range?

Yes, you can type the range manually (e.g., A1:A10) after the function in the formula bar.


  1. Open Excel and input data.
  2. Select an empty cell for the result.
  3. Use the VAR.P or VAR.S function.
  4. Select the data range.
  5. Press Enter.


That’s it! You’ve just learned how to get variance in Excel. It’s a handy tool that gives you insights into the variability of your data. Whether you’re a student working on a project, a professional analyzing financial data, or just curious about your numbers, calculating the variance can be incredibly informative.

Excel is a versatile tool. Knowing how to use functions like VAR.P and VAR.S can save you time and effort. So, next time you’re staring at a column of numbers, remember that finding the variance is just a few clicks away.

Keep practicing, and you’ll get the hang of it. Your future self, with all that statistical knowledge, will thank you. Happy calculating!

Get Our Free Newsletter

How-to guides and tech deals

You may opt out at any time.
Read our Privacy Policy