Excel makes it easy to calculate standard deviation thanks to the =STDEV() function, but before you rush to try it in your spreadsheet, keep in mind that it will likely give you six options for the function. Here we will show you how to calculate standard deviation in Excel and which function to use. See also: How to use Excel
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We are using Excel 2013 here, but it is the same or similar in other versions.
How to calculate standard deviation in Excel: the basics
Let’s say you have a column filled with data. All you need to do to calculate the standard deviation is select a blank cell on the spreadsheet, type =stdev(a1:a20) and you’ll get an instant answer.
This assumes that your data is the numeric values in cells A1 through A20.
How to calculate standard deviation in Excel: Which function to use
For the most part, you’ll be working with templates, rather than sets. This narrows your function choice to just three: STDEV.S, STDEVA, and STDEV
The latter is simply there for compatibility with Excel 2007 and earlier, leaving only the first two. You’ll probably want to use STDEV.S because STDEVA is just where you deal with non-numeric data (like a TRUE or FALSE answer, for example).
The other three functions, STDEV.P, STDEVPA and STDEVP are for population data. You would only use these if you had data from every member of the population. Otherwise, use template functions.
STDEV.P is the set equivalent to STDEV.S and is for numeric data, while STDEVPA will also handle text. As you might have guessed, STDEVP is only there for compatibility with Excel 2007 and earlier, so unless you need this for some reason, avoid using it.
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