By David H. Ringstrom, CPA
Most Excel users are familiar with the SUM, MIN, and MAX functions in Excel. Used in their traditional fashion, you provide a range of cells to the function to derive a result:
- =SUM(C2:C6) would add up all values in cells C2 through C6
- =MIN(C2:C6) would return the smallest value within cells C2 through C6
- =MAX(C2:C6) would return the largest value within cells C2 through C6
As shown in Figure 1, these formulas return 225,000, 29,000, and 70,000, respectively.
Figure 1: Sample payroll information that we wish to analyze
However, in certain cases you may wish to use this functions based on multiple criteria. It’s a simple process to do so, but one that requires a special keystroke after you type the formula. Typically you simply press Enter once you type a formula in a cell. However, in the case of the multiple criteria formulas I’m about to share, you’ll press Ctrl-Shift-Enter after you type the formula. Excel will accept the formula if you slip and just press the Enter key, but the formula may not return the desired result. In such cases, simply press F2 to edit the formula, and then press Ctrl-Shift-Enter.
Now, let’s say that we want to get the sum of just the jobs in the Operations department with a job code of 100. To do so, put the word Operations in cell F2, and the number 100 in cell E3. Next, enter the following formula in cell F3, and then press Ctrl-Shift-Enter:
You’ll notice that there’s an IF statement within the SUM. This allows us to specify multiple criteria, which we separate with an asterisk. Thus, ($A$2:$A$6=$F$2) identifies the cells in column A that contain the word Operations. The second criteria ($B$2:$B$6=$E3) identifies the cells in column B that contain the value 100. When both of these criteria are met, Excel creates an array of the corresponding values from cells $C$2:$C$6. Since the IF statement is contained within a SUM function, Excel adds up the values that meet both criteria. Although I only specified two criteria here, you can feel free to enter more criteria as needed.
You’ll notice that when you press Ctrl-Shift-Enter the formula bar displays curly brackets around the formula:
The curly brackets indicate an array formula – these are special types of formulas in Excel that can carry out sophisticated techniques such as summing a range based on multiple criteria. Don’t type the curly brackets yourself – Excel adds them automatically when you press Ctrl-Shift-Enter.
To better understand how array formulas work, let’s step through the components.