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Almost all professionals have used MS Excel in some form or the other.

Most havent taken


up any formal Ms Excel tutorial. Through self-study, theyve picked up basic excel formulas
and features to help them with their day-to-day tasks.

However, most dont realise the power thats available at their finger tips if theyd take the
pains to understand some special excel formulas.

Apart from all the fantastic theoretical concepts that MBA students learn in a classroom,
most realise that the lowly MS Excel formulas theyve ignored so far can be their best
friends as they head out into their post MBA jobs. In fact, many quant focussed MBA jobs
(like consulting) specifically need advanced excel skills.

In my post-MBA job, I spent 5 years managing Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) transactions.
In almost all the M&A valuation modelling that I did (some deals valued at hundreds of
millions of dollars), there was a heavy dependency on these seemingly simple and
mundane, yet powerful formulas.

But you dont have to head to business school to learn them. Weve picked out the 10 best
MBA Excel formulas that can save you and your company valuable hours and money by
automating routine tasks, improving efficiency and doing complex calculations that your
brain wouldve struggled with.

MS Excel formulas for every MBA &


professional
As this is an introductory post, instead of trying to replicate the structure and format of an
MS Excel Tutorial, well only touch upon the concepts. If any of these formulas catches your
fancy, you can always follow up to learn more.

What are MS Excel formulas?


If this sounds too basic, skip to the next section.

Lets consider a simple example to understand what excel formulas are and what they can
do. As youd know, excel worksheets are organised as 2-dimensional grids, with columns
(named as A, B, C etc) and rows (labelled as 1, 2, 3 etc). You can specific each cell
with its reference e.g. A1, A2, B1, B2

If you want to add the values of 5 cells in Column A, you could use the formula:

= A1 + A2 + A3 + A4 + A5

What if you had a hundred values to add, or a thousand. Itll get pretty tedious to mention
each cell name in the formula. This is where excel formulas come into picture.

These simple concepts can be used in complex and powerful ways to deal with a numeric
and textual data.

Technically, these are MS excel functions. But most professionals dont bother about it and
refer to them as Excel formulas. So thats what weve done here. Your knowledge and the
output you can produce with them is more important than the technical names.

MS Excel Formulas for Numeric / Mathematical


Operations
When God Gates created MS Office, he made MS Excel the king of the numeric world
(while MS Word got language). So its only fair that you start building your MS Excel skills
with the basic numeric operations.

In the example that we talked about earlier (where you needed to add 5 numbers), instead
of the earlier approach of adding 5 cell references, you could simply use a function:

=SUM (A1:A5)

If you want to add the values in the first 100 cells in Column A, instead of the long-winded
approach (=A1+A2+..+A99+A100), all you need to do is change the formula to:

= SUM (A1:A100)

While we are on the topic, what goes inside the brackets are called arguments. But for this
post, to avoid getting it mixed with the literal meaning of that word, well call them as
parameters.
In addition to SUM(), the other basic mathemetical functions you could check out are:
AVERAGE(), MIN(), MAX(), COUNT(), SUMPRODUCT()

MS Excel Formulas for String Operations


In the MS Excel world, String refers to Text (as opposed to Numbers). Theres a bunch of
excel formulas that allow you to manipulate, edit & build strings.

Heres a list of basic excel formulas to manage strings.

LEN(), TRIM(), LEFT(), RIGHT(), FIND(), MID(), REPLACE(), SUBSTITUTE(),


CONCATENATE()

Each of these MS excel functions needs one or more parameters to be specified.

LEN (MBA Crystal Ball) will display 16. Thats the number of characters (including spaces)
in the string.

Similarly, LEFT (MBA Crystal Ball, 3) will display the first 3 characters (MBA) of the
bigger string.

MID(MBA Crystal Ball, 5, 7) starts from position 5 and displays the 7 subsequent
characters i.e. Crystal.

Excel Formulas for Conditional Evaluation


Some of the mathematical functions allow you to add a filter condition. Instead of saying,
add ALL the elements in the following range of cells, only add a subset that meets the
following condition.

Examples of such conditional excel formulas are: SUMIF(), COUNTIF(), AVERAGEIF()

For instance, in a table of MBA applicants which has a column filled with GMAT scores, if
you want to find out the number of candidates who scored 710, youd use this formula:
COUNTIF(A1:A100, 710)
In the family of conditional Excel formulas, the IF statement deserves a special mention. It
allows you to test a condition and take an action based on whether the condition is true or
false.

Heres an example: IF ( A1 = A2, Equal, Not Equal)

This will compare the contents of 2 cells (in A1 & A2) and display the text value of Equal if
the values match, or Not Equal if they dont.

Excel Formulas for Logical Operations


Heres the list of basic logical operators: AND, OR, NOT, TRUE, FALSE

You could compare multiple conditions by using AND / OR, and then take the appropriate
action.

For instance, consider the formula: IF ( AND (A1 = A2, B1 = B2), Equal, Not Equal)

This will display Equal only if both conditions are met i.e. A1 & A2 have the same values,
and B1 & B2 have the same values too.

Excel Formulas for Database Operations


When you are dealing with a table of data (i.e. the values are spread across multiple
columns and rows), the VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP functions can make it easy to search for
specific values.

This can be a little difficult to understand. So, out pops another example to help us out.

Consider the following table, which displays the column names (A, B, C, D) and Row
numbers (1, 2, 3, 4).

A B C D
1 Name Age City GMAT

2 Raj 27 Chennai 730

3 Pooja 25 Delhi 710

4 Vijay 28 Mumbai 680

Now consider the following formulas


Formula 1: VLOOKUP (Pooja, A2:D4, 4)

This will cause excel to first scan the cell range (from A2 to D4), go down to Row 4 (i.e.
Poojas data) and then pick up the value from the 4th column in the cell range (i.e. GMAT
score). The value displayed by the forumula is 680.

Formula 2: VLOOKUP (Vijay, A2:D4, 3)

This will scan the same cell range (from A2 to D4), go down to Row 5 (i.e. Vijays data) and
then pick up the value from the 3rd column in the cell range (i.e. City). The output of this
formula is Mumbai.

Excel Formulas for Date & Time


If you had no calendar, no mobile, no way to look at the moon/stars to find out todays date,
what would you do. Youd open up MS Excel and type the date formula: TODAY()

Your little American genie who likes the idiosyncratic MM/DD/YYYY format would tell you
its 11/20/2014 [or whatever date it is].

You could use nested formulas (one formula within another) to extract specific sub-data
from this.

MONTH ( TODAY() ) would give you 11.


DAY ( TODAY() ) would display 20.

YEAR ( TODAY() ) shows 2014.

WEEKDAY ( TODAY() ) would tell say Sunday (or the relevant day of the week).

Other date/time functions to check out: DATE(), HOUR(), MINUTE()

Advanced Excel Formulas


The family of Excel formulas is quite large, complex and often confusing.

Once youve mastered the basic functions listed earlier, you could check out a few statistical
formulas that tend to be used more often than the others: PERCENTILE(), STDEV(),
RANK(), GROWTH()

Excel also has several financial formulas: IRR(), PV(), FV(), RATE()

Online Excel Tutorial vs Classroom Course vs Self-


Study
If you are a self-starter, the online excel help that comes with the software is well-structured
and user-friendly. Dont get overwhelmed by the full list of basic and advanced excel
functions that span across various categories. In fact, you dont need an advanced excel
formulas pdf file to get started.

Just like you would while learning a foreign language, take up a few functions each week
and become comfortable with their usage and parameters (arguments). Create your
personal excel formulas cheat sheet, instead of relying on the full list of excel formulas. Very
soon, your excel vocabulary will grow.

If you find all the technical jargon in the online help confusing, you could take a short 1-2
day classroom course or an online excel tutorial to quickly learn the basics.

Whether its MS Excel 2010 or any new version, the software is going to be around for a
while. Invest some effort in it and you wont be disappointed.