The Difference in Sum Vs. Count in Excel

The "Sum" and "Count" functions in Excel offer two different ways of looking at the numbers in your spreadsheet. If you use both functions to address the same range of cells, each one will return a different result in most cases. Understanding how each function operates requires a basic understanding of a few Excel-based terms.

Terminology

In Excel, a grouping of several cells is called a "Range." When you enter a formula, such as "Sum" or "Count," you need to specify a range of cells you want the function to calculate. Another common Excel term is "Value." The value is the data you enter into a cell. A value can be numbers, letters or combinations of the two.

Sum Function

The "Sum" function in Excel adds together the values of cells within your specified range. For example, a formula of "=SUM(B6:B8)" will add the values contained in cells "B6" through "B8." If you have values such as 6, 7 and 8 in those cells, respectively, your "Sum" formula solution will be 21.

Count Function

The "Count" function does not deal with the cell values directly. Instead, it determines which cells have numerical values, as opposed to text values that do not translate into numbers. The "Count" formula result tells you how many cells within your chosen range have values, but not the sum of those values. For example, if you have the same 6, 7 and 8 values in cells "B6," "B7" and "B8," the formula "=COUNT(B6:B8)" will return a solution of 3. This is because three of those cells had numbers in them. If, instead, your "B6" cell had the word "Numbers" in it and the rest of the range was the same, the same "Count" formula would return 2 as your answer, because only two of the three cells had numbers.

Considerations

The "Sum" function is useful in many types of spreadsheets, including receipts, personal or business budgeting or anything else that requires a cumulative total for all values within a range. It is one of the most basic formulas in Excel, and often the first taught in Excel training courses. The "Count" function is most useful for large spreadsheets that have a variety of data types. The "Count" function also has other variations that may prove more useful. For example, the "CountIf" function lets you count only cells with numbers that meet certain criteria, such as dates or times. "CountA" counts any cell with a value entered, including text values, which can help you find the number of blank cells in your range by subtracting the number of data-filled cells from the cell total.

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