How to Do Standard Error Bars on Excel Charts

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Error bars are expressed as the percentage of possible error amounts for each data point in a two-dimensional chart. They help indicate whether there are significant differences between two variables that are being compared. Standard error bars represent the standard deviation of the mean. Calculating standard errors and drawing the bars manually can be tedious. Microsoft Excel makes this task easier with it Standard Error bar feature. Learn how to add and customize standard error bars in charts using Microsoft Excel.


Step 1

Open a new workbook in Microsoft Excel. Enter data points in cells down two columns. For example, if we want to plot the number of students that earned a certain average exam grade, we would list the number of students down column A and the average grade in column B.

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Step 2

Highlight the data in both columns. Go to the "Insert" tab and choose a chart type. For example, we can choose a scatter chart to plot the data.


Step 3

Click on a data point to select all of the data points in the chart, or click twice on a data point to only select that data point. You can have standard error bars for one data point or all of the data points.

Step 4

Go to the "Layout" tab under Chart Tools and click on "Error Bars." Select "Error Bars with Standard Error."



Step 5

Click on the "Error Bars" menu and select "More Error Bar Options." You can change the direction of the error bars, the end style, and the error amount. The line color, style and shadow can also be customized.



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