Using the COUNT Function in Excel

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  • 0:01 The COUNT Group of Functions
  • 0:51 Counting Numbers
  • 2:54 COUNTA
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

The COUNT function is one of the most common functions used in Excel. This lesson will introduce you to the function and explain how to use it in formulas.

The COUNT Group of Functions

COUNT is a function used in Excel formulas, similar to SUM. This function totals or counts the cells in a range where a number has been entered. Like the SUM function, COUNT is another popular way to perform calculations in an Excel worksheet. There are other similar functions, such as COUNTA, COUNTBLANK, COUNTIF and COUNTIFS, plural. Even though each member of this group totals the number of cells that meet specific criteria, each does have a slightly different purpose.

This lesson will focus on the COUNT, COUNTA and COUNTBLANK functions. You will learn what the functions do and learn how to use them in formulas.

Counting Numbers

What separates COUNT from the other members of the COUNT group is that this function is specific to numbers, as opposed to text.

Let's start with an example. Imagine you have a small office football pool. There are ten people that joined this year and each anted up five bucks. On Monday mornings during NFL season, each person in the pool emails you their pick for the Monday Night football game. The person that has the most picks correct at the end of the season, wins the pot. If there is a tie, the winners split the pot.

In order to keep track, you have created a worksheet to tally the weekly results. Column A has the name of each person in the pool, then you have 17 columns for each Monday Night game during the season (columns B through R). If someone picks the winning team, you place a '1' in the cell for that week. If not, you leave the cell empty.

Now you need a formula that will count the 1s for each person, which will tell you how many times they picked the right team. You want the formula to update as you enter the results for each week. This way, each week you can email the gang and let them know who is in the lead.

First, let's add a column title, POINTS, to column S (just after week 17). At the end of the row for the first person (in our example, this would be S3) we will enter this formula: =COUNT(B3:R3).

Example spreadsheet after entering formula
example spreadsheet after adding formula

You will notice that Excel counts the cells with a number and returns the total. Keep in mind that we are not asking Excel to count the number of 1s specifically, just the number of cells where a number exists. Technically, we could enter any number and have Excel return the same results.


COUNTA works a bit differently. This function counts any cell that has data entered, which includes text and numbers. If we go back to our sample worksheet and enter WIN for the week the person picked correctly, rather than 1, using the standard COUNT function will not work. COUNT does not recognize text and therefore would return a value of zero (0). Remember, COUNT recognizes only numbers.

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