Calculating Variance in Excel: A Guide for Statistical Analysis

Calculating variance in Excel is a breeze once you get the hang of it. In essence, variance measures how much your data points deviate from the mean (average) value. This is crucial for statistical analysis as it helps you understand the spread or dispersion of your data set. Let’s dive in and learn how to calculate variance in Excel!

Step by Step Tutorial: Calculating Variance in Excel

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, it’s important to understand that we’ll be using a function in Excel called VAR.S. This function calculates the sample variance of a data set. A sample, in this case, refers to a portion of a population, like a subset of survey responses or test scores. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Enter your data into Excel

Type your data into a single column or row without any spaces or text.

Entering your data in a neat, continuous range will make the next steps easier. It’s essential that this range only includes numerical data because any text or blank cells could result in errors or incorrect calculations.

Step 2: Click on an empty cell

This is where the result of the variance calculation will be displayed.

The cell you select for the output doesn’t have to be directly next to your data, but it’s a good practice to keep it close for easy reference.

Step 3: Type =VAR.S(

This is the beginning of the formula you’ll use to calculate variance.

The period after VAR is crucial because it specifies that you’re calculating the sample variance, not the population variance (which would be VAR.P).

Step 4: Highlight your data range

Click and drag to select all the cells that contain your data.

Make sure you include all the relevant data in this selection. If you miss a cell, it won’t be included in the calculation, and your variance result will be off.

Step 5: Close the formula with a parenthesis and press Enter

Your complete formula should look something like =VAR.S(A1:A10) if your data is in cells A1 through A10.

Once you press Enter, Excel will calculate and display the variance of your data in the cell you selected.

After completing these steps, you’ll have successfully calculated the variance of your data set. Understanding the variance can help you grasp how much your data varies and is essential in fields like finance, science, and engineering where data analysis is crucial.

Tips: Mastering Variance Calculation in Excel

  • Always ensure that your data is clean and without any non-numeric characters to avoid errors.
  • Use VAR.S for sample data and VAR.P when you want to calculate variance for an entire population.
  • Remember that a high variance indicates that your data points are spread out, while a low variance suggests they are clustered closely around the mean.
  • For more accurate statistical analysis, consider using other measures in tandem with variance, such as standard deviation.
  • Excel functions are case-insensitive, so =var.s is the same as =VAR.S, but consistent use of uppercase can make your formulas easier to read.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between VAR.S and VAR.P?

VAR.S calculates the variance for a sample of a population, whereas VAR.P calculates the variance for the entire population.

Can I use VAR.S for more than one data range?

Yes, you can calculate the variance for multiple data ranges by entering them in the formula separated by commas, like =VAR.S(A1:A10, C1:C10).

What if my data has text or blank cells in it?

You’ll need to clean your data first. Text or blank cells can cause the VAR.S function to return an error or an incorrect result.

Can I calculate variance for non-adjacent cells?

Yes, just use commas to separate the cell references in the formula, like =VAR.S(A1, A3, A5).

What does a #DIV/0! error mean when calculating variance?

This error means you’re attempting to divide by zero, which could happen if you’re calculating variance for a data range with only one number or all the same numbers.


  1. Enter your data into Excel
  2. Click on an empty cell
  3. Type =VAR.S(
  4. Highlight your data range
  5. Close the formula with a parenthesis and press Enter


And there you have it, folks! Calculating variance in Excel is not as daunting as it seems. With a bit of practice, you’ll be analyzing your data like a pro, uncovering the hidden stories behind those numbers. Remember, understanding your data’s variance is key in making informed decisions, whether you’re managing business operations, conducting scientific research, or just trying to make sense of the world around you. So go ahead, crunch those numbers, and let Excel do the heavy lifting for you. After all, isn’t that what technology is for? To make our lives a little easier and a lot more insightful. Happy calculating, and here’s to uncovering the patterns that shape our decisions and our lives!

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