How to Use Excel Formulas: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

how to use excel formulas

Excel formulas are powerful tools that let you perform calculations, analyze data, and automate tasks. By mastering some basic formulas, you can save time and improve your productivity. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps to use Excel formulas effectively. You’ll learn how to enter formulas, use common functions, and apply them to your data.

Step-by-step Tutorial: How to Use Excel Formulas

First, let’s dive into how to actually use Excel formulas. We’ll cover the basics, so even if you’re new to Excel, you can follow along and start using these tools in no time.

Step 1: Open Excel and Select a Cell

First, open Excel and click on the cell where you want to enter your formula.

When you select a cell, it’s important to note that this is where your calculation results will appear. Think of it like setting the stage for your math magic to happen.

Step 2: Start with an Equal Sign (=)

Begin typing an equal sign (=) in the selected cell.

The equal sign tells Excel that what follows is a formula or function. It’s like a signal flare to get Excel’s attention so it knows to expect some math or logic.

Step 3: Enter the Formula

Type the specific formula you need, such as =A1+B1 to add the values in cells A1 and B1.

Formulas can range from simple addition to complex calculations. Make sure you reference the correct cells, or else you might end up with a result that doesn’t make sense.

Step 4: Press Enter

Hit the Enter key on your keyboard to complete the formula.

Once you press Enter, Excel will immediately perform the calculation and display the result in your selected cell. If you see an error like #VALUE! or #DIV/0!, it means something went wrong.

Step 5: Copy the Formula

Click on the cell with the formula, and drag the fill handle (a small square at the bottom-right corner of the cell) across the cells you want to copy it to.

Copying the formula is a great way to apply the same calculation to multiple cells. This is especially useful for tasks like summing columns or rows without having to retype the formula over and over.

After completing these steps, you’ll see the results of your formulas in the cells where you entered them. You can now analyze your data and make informed decisions based on the results.

Tips for Using Excel Formulas

Here are some extra tips to help you get the most out of Excel formulas:

  1. Use absolute references: Use $ to lock cell references when you want the formula to always refer to the same cell.
  2. Know your functions: Functions like SUM, AVERAGE, and VLOOKUP can make your life easier. Learn the most common ones.
  3. Check for errors: Use IFERROR to handle any issues that might come up, displaying a user-friendly message instead of an error code.
  4. Combine functions: Don’t be afraid to nest functions within each other for more complex calculations.
  5. Use the Formula Bar: If your formula is getting long, use the Formula Bar to get a better view and make editing easier.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a formula and a function in Excel?

A formula is any calculation you enter into a cell, while a function is a predefined formula that simplifies complex calculations.

How can I make a cell reference absolute?

Add $ before the column letter and row number (e.g., $A$1) to make the reference absolute.

What does the #VALUE! error mean?

The #VALUE! error indicates that there is something wrong with the formula or the cells it references, often due to incompatible data types.

How do I sum an entire column?

Use the SUM function like this: =SUM(A:A). This will sum all the values in column A.

Can I use Excel formulas in Google Sheets?

Yes, most Excel formulas work in Google Sheets, although there may be some differences in function names and usage.


  1. Open Excel and select a cell.
  2. Start with an equal sign (=).
  3. Enter the formula.
  4. Press Enter.
  5. Copy the formula.


Mastering Excel formulas is like learning to speak a new language. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself breezing through tasks that used to take forever. This guide has given you a crash course on how to use Excel formulas, from basic arithmetic to advanced functions. Don’t stop here—keep experimenting and exploring what Excel can do. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become. So go ahead, open up Excel, and start making those numbers work for you!

For further reading, I recommend checking out Excel’s built-in help feature or exploring online courses that can offer more in-depth tutorials on specific functions. Remember, the key to mastering Excel is practice, practice, practice. Happy calculating!

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