Chapter 5. Explore the Patterns in Your Data

Excel offers you much more than a way of keeping track of your data and doing calculations. It also provides tools to analyze your data and thus to understand it better and make better decisions. In this chapter, you learn about a range of tools that can give you rich insights into your data.

One of the most useful tools, the PivotTable, is also one of the least understood. Similar to cross-tabulation in statistics, a PivotTable shows how data is distributed across categories. For example, you can analyze data and display how different products sell by region and by quarter. Alternatively, you can analyze income distribution or consumer preferences by gender and age bracket. Excel makes it easy for you to answer useful questions about your data.

This chapter also introduces Excel’s statistical functions. These statistics were once available only through large, expensive statistical software packages. You will learn to use descriptive statistics to characterize your data and to explore associations between data series by using the correlation function. For the statistically adept, Excel also includes more advanced functions.

Finally, you learn to do two related analytical tasks: what-if analysis and goal seeking. With what-if analysis, you vary an input to find how it affects a result. With goal seeking, you start with a goal and try to achieve it by varying a single factor.

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