How to Learn Excel in 10 Easy Steps
Do you know what the most popular technical skill in today’s business world is? Finance, project management, marketing, data analysis, sales, operations, and more use Microsoft Excel. In fact, this is one of the most common requirements listed on modern-day job descriptions. It is a skill that is transferable in many career paths.
Last Updated November 2020
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Why do you need to learn Excel?
Excel is a spreadsheet software that lets you organize large amounts of data in a row and column format. This is a powerful structure because it creates a tabular organization of the data you are working with. Excel can help you enter data, apply formatting to data, or use functions to perform calculations. With it, you can transfer data, perform lookup functions, and more. Excel provides an unparalleled ratio of user-friendliness to data analytics capabilities. Pivot tables are the favorite tool of intermediate users. You can build so much more when you advance your skills and combine Pivot tables with functions and data visualization features. If you want to learn some programming, Excel VBA code can be a great place to start. You can use VBA code to automate repetitive tasks. It can also help you be much faster than everyone else in the office.
What is the best way to learn Excel?
I would recommend a structured approach. So far, I’ve taught over 500,000 people around the world how to work with Excel. People advance at a fast pace when they go through a well-organized curriculum. I had to learn on the job while doing Advisory for PWC. It took me years to become an Excel expert. If you take advantage of a carefully prepared course, you can learn a ton of skills in a short time.
The learning path I recommend has worked very well in practice. I am sure that if you follow these 10 steps, you’ll become an expert in Excel in no time
1. Go through the main tabs
The first thing you should do is get familiar with the Excel ribbon. Take a look at the types of functionalities available in each of the main tabs of the ribbon. Spend at least an hour to gain a general understanding of the idea behind each tab. Try to understand the logic behind the functions located there. Remember, this is a walk-through. You aren’t expected to apply every Excel functionality you see just yet.
2. Data entry
One of my favorite parts of teaching Excel is to show people how to perform data entry. A very important and frequent task in the workplace. Perfecting it can save you a significant amount of time and protect you from mistakes. Data entry is a hands-on activity that actually requires you to start typing with the keyboard. It’s easy to do data entry in Excel, so it is a doable second step for you to take!
It is never too early to start learning Excel shortcuts. Shortcuts are a bit counterintuitive at first. You have to remember all these keyboard combinations. Once you know what you are doing with shortcuts, though, you will become three times faster in Excel. This saves you tens or, more likely, hundreds of hours over time.
One of the best ways to make a great impression at work is by sending a well-formatted Excel spreadsheet. The first three steps I take with an unformatted sheet are choosing a white color, a font size of 9, and an Arial font. I also like to have a title in bold, which has a font size of 12 located in cell B1, but that’s me.
5. Basic functions
Functions are what make Excel the most popular productivity software in the world. Yes, the basic functions are for beginners, but they also help you do a lot. This is true whether you SUM the values in a range, COUNT the number of values, or calculate the AVERAGE. Excel’s basic functions help you do these things in a very simple and effective way. Once you have tried using a few beginner Excel functions, you can start with more advanced formulas and functions.
6. Intermediate and advanced functions
You cannot learn more complex Excel functions instantly. They take some time. As soon as you understand how to work with them, you’ll increase your productivity by 5 or 10 times. Excel is all about summing ranges based on conditions other ranges meet (SUMIF, SUMIFS). It is about transferring data efficiently (VLOOKUP, INDEX & MATCH). Functions let you take full advantage of the fact that spreadsheets have a tabular form.
7. Other functionalities
Besides functions, you’ll need to be able to make the most of the additional built-in and available tools in Excel. Conditional formatting helps you see patterns based on color highlighting or icon sets. The format cells function determines how to format your cells. This can be as a currency, number, percentage, or a custom format you assign. The data validation feature helps you create drop-down lists. Some of the most widely used tools are Goal Seek, Scenario Manager, and Filtering. Remove duplicates, Text to columns, and Formula Auditing, and more are also popular.
8. Excel charts
It’s worth knowing how to manipulate data with functions and other tools. It’s even better to be able to create meaningful visualizations that you can show afterward. The great news is that the formatting best practices you already learned can be applied here. Excel charts are easy to customize but take practice to master. You need to do several hands-on exercises to become confident in using different types of charts. My advice is to start with simple visualizations such as line and area charts. Continue with some more advanced visualizations. These can be bridge, bubble, treemap, and combined or secondary vertical axis charts.
9. Pivot tables
Many people learn Pivot tables before intermediate and advanced functions. I don’t think this is a mistake, but it can be a problem. Pivot tables are so easy to understand. You risk using them without learning how to work with the rest of the functions in Excel. They are essential and brilliant in their simplicity, though. Pivot tables are great for making sense of your data quickly. Unlike formulas, the chance of mechanical errors is almost non-existent. They are especially powerful, combined with the GETPIVOTDATA function.
10. Solving real-life tasks – depending on your industry
Finally, engage in real-life case studies where you complete varying tasks step-by-step. Hopefully, there’s someone who can provide feedback if you get stuck along the way. You need to be very hands-on. Doing exercises is essential for learning Excel. Practice materials that address a topic close to the way you intend to use Excel are even better.
Starting at different levels
Here’s how I would approach different learning needs if I were to improve my Excel skills.
- For an intermediate or advanced user, free Excel websites and resources can help you out.
- For a beginner who wants to make quick progress, the best path is a structured Excel training. Something like a Udemy course can make learning Excel easy and fast. Remember, time spent learning is never time lost.
Thanks for reading this article. I hope my advice has been useful to you. Learning Excel will have a tremendous benefit in your career path. I feel absolutely confident about that.
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