Finding the Average Value With Excel's AVERAGE Function

Use the AVERAGE function to find the mean in a range of data

Excel has a few functions that calculate the central tendency in a range of data: AVERAGE, MEDIAN, and MODE. The most commonly derived measure of central tendency is the simple average (mean). It is calculated by adding a group of numbers and dividing the result by the count of those numbers.

Here's how to find the arithmetic mean using the AVERAGE function in Excel.

These instructions apply to Excel for Microsoft 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, and Excel for Mac.

AVERAGE Function Syntax and Arguments

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function name, brackets, comma separators, and arguments. The syntax of the AVERAGE function is:

  • Number1 (required) is the data from which you want the function to find the average.
  • Number2 to Number 255 (optional) is the additional data you want to include in the average calculation. The maximum number of entries allowed is 255.
Excel showing AVERAGE example functions

Options for entering the function and its arguments include:

  • Typing the complete function into a worksheet cell.
  • Inputting the function and arguments using the Function dialog box.
  • Entering the function and arguments using the Excel Average Function shortcut.

Excel AVERAGE Function Example

Excel has a shortcut to enter the AVERAGE function, sometimes referred to as AutoAverage due to its association with the AutoSum feature, which is located on the Home tab of the ribbon.

The steps below cover how to enter the AVERAGE function, as shown in row four of the example image above, using the shortcut method.

  1. Select cell D4, which is where the formula results will display.

    Cell D4 selected in Excel worksheet.
  2. Go to the Home tab and, in the Editing group, select the AutoSum drop-down arrow.

    The AutoSum menu
  3. Select Average in the list to enter the AVERAGE function into cell D4.

  4. Highlight cells A4 to C4 to enter these references as arguments for the function, then press the Enter key on the keyboard.

    Cells A4:C4 selected in Excel.
  5. The number 10 appears in cell D4. This result is the average of the three numbers (4, 20, and 6).

Best Practices for Using the AVERAGE Function

Follow these guidelines when entering data for the AVERAGE function:

  • You can add individual cells as arguments, rather than a continuous range. When using cells as arguments, separate cell references with a comma.
  • Excel ignores blank cells, text entries, and cells containing Boolean values (TRUE or FALSE).
  • If you make changes to the data in the selected cells after entering the function, it automatically recalculates the result to reflect the change.

How to AutoAverage Select Ranges

When using the AutoAverage feature, keep these tips in mind:

  • The default range includes only cells containing numbers.
  • The AVERAGE function should be entered at the bottom of a column of data or the right end of a row of data. It looks first for the number data above and then to the left.
  • Since the AVERAGE function guesses at the range it selects for the Number argument, you should check that it's accurate before pressing the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the function.

Blank Cells vs. Zero Cells

When it comes to finding average values in Excel, there's a difference between blank or empty cells and those containing a zero value. Blank cells are ignored by the AVERAGE function, which can be handy since it makes finding the average for non-contiguous cells of data easy.

Turn Zero Cells Off and On

Excel displays a zero in cells with a zero value by default, such as the result of calculations. If this option is off, such cells are left blank but are included in average calculations.

  1. Select File > Options to open Excel Options.

  2. In the left pane, select Advanced.

    Advanced settings in Excel
  3. To hide zero values in cells, go to the Display options for this worksheet section, then clear the Show a zero in cells that have zero value check box.

    The Show a zero setting
  4. To display zero values in cells, select the Show a zero in cells that have zero value check box.

Turn Off or Turn On Zero Cells in Excel for Mac

  1. Select the Excel menu.

  2. Select Preferences in the list to open the Preferences dialog box.

  3. Select the View category.

  4. To hide zero values in cells, go to the Show in Workbook section, then clear the Zero values check box.

  5. To display zero values in cells, select the Zero values check box.

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