In the realm of data analysis, calculating percentage change holds immense significance, providing essential insights into how values have evolved over time. Whether you’re a financial analyst tracking stock market fluctuations or a business manager assessing sales performance, understanding percentage change is crucial for making informed decisions. Microsoft Excel, a widely used spreadsheet program, offers a plethora of tools and functions to assist you in swiftly and accurately calculating percentage change.
This comprehensive guide will take you through the ins and outs of calculating percentage change in Excel, delving into various methods and formulas you can employ depending on your specific needs. We’ll start by laying the foundational concepts, then gradually progress to more advanced techniques, ensuring that you’re equipped with the necessary knowledge to tackle any percentage change calculation that comes your way.
With Excel’s userfriendly interface and versatile functions, calculating percentage change becomes a breeze. Let’s dive into the practical steps, starting with the fundamental formula for percentage change and exploring additional features that enhance the process.
How to Calculate Percent Change in Excel
Easily calculate percentage change with Excel’s formulas and functions.
 Understand the concept of percentage change.
 Use the formula: (New Value – Old Value) / Old Value.
 Enter values in separate cells.
 Reference cell values in the formula.
 Use the PERCENTCHANGE function for quick calculations.
 Format cells as percentages.
 Handle negative values and division by zero.
 Apply conditional formatting for visual insights.
Calculating percentage change in Excel empowers you to analyze data trends and make informed decisions.
Understand the Concept of Percentage Change
At its core, percentage change measures the relative difference between two values, providing insights into how much one value has changed compared to another. It’s expressed as a percentage, making it easy to understand and compare changes of different magnitudes.

Starting Value:
This is the initial value from which the change is measured.

Ending Value:
This is the final value that represents the new state after the change has occurred.

Positive Percentage Change:
When the ending value is greater than the starting value, the percentage change is positive, indicating an increase.

Negative Percentage Change:
When the ending value is less than the starting value, the percentage change is negative, indicating a decrease.
Grasping the concept of percentage change is crucial for interpreting and utilizing the results of your calculations accurately. It allows you to assess whether a change is significant, whether it aligns with expectations, and whether further investigation or action is warranted.
Use the Formula: (New Value – Old Value) / Old Value
The fundamental formula for calculating percentage change is a simple yet powerful tool that provides accurate results. Let’s break down each component of the formula:

New Value:
This is the final value, representing the state after the change has occurred.

Old Value:
This is the initial value, representing the state before the change occurred.

Subtract:
To calculate the change, you subtract the old value from the new value. This gives you the absolute value of the change.

Divide:
To express the change as a percentage, you divide the absolute change by the old value. This step converts the absolute change into a relative measure.
By following these steps and plugging in your values, you can easily calculate the percentage change using this formula. Remember, the result will be in decimal form, so you may need to multiply by 100 to convert it to a percentage.
Enter Values in Separate Cells
To calculate percentage change accurately in Excel, it’s crucial to enter the new value and the old value in separate cells. This allows Excel to recognize and process the values correctly, ensuring precise results.
Here’s a stepbystep guide to entering values in separate cells:

Identify the New Value and Old Value:
Clearly identify the two values you want to compare. The new value represents the final state after the change, while the old value represents the initial state before the change. 
Enter Values into Separate Cells:
Open Microsoft Excel and enter the new value into one cell and the old value into another cell. Make sure each value is entered into its own unique cell. 
Label the Cells:
Assign clear and descriptive labels to the cells containing the new value and the old value. This will help you easily identify and reference the values in your calculations. 
Use Cell References in Formulas:
When you construct the formula to calculate the percentage change, refer to the cell addresses containing the new value and the old value. This ensures that Excel pulls the correct values from the designated cells.
By following these steps, you ensure that Excel has the necessary information to perform the percentage change calculation accurately and efficiently.
Reference Cell Values in the Formula
Once you have entered the new value and old value into separate cells, you need to reference these cells in the formula to calculate the percentage change.
Here’s a stepbystep guide to referencing cell values in the formula:

Open the Formula Bar:
Click on the cell where you want to display the percentage change result. Then, click on the formula bar located above the worksheet. This is where you will enter the formula. 
Type the Formula:
Begin typing the formula to calculate the percentage change. The basic formula is:=(New Value Cell  Old Value Cell) / Old Value Cell

Reference the Cells:
Instead of typing the actual values, refer to the cells containing the new value and old value. Use the cell addresses in the formula. For example, if the new value is in cell B3 and the old value is in cell B4, the formula would be:=(B3  B4) / B4

Press Enter:
Once you have entered the formula correctly, press the Enter key. Excel will calculate the percentage change and display the result in the selected cell.
By referencing the cell values in the formula, you ensure that Excel uses the latest values when calculating the percentage change. This is particularly useful when working with dynamic data that changes over time.
Use the PERCENTCHANGE Function for Quick Calculations
Excel provides a builtin function called PERCENTCHANGE that can simplify and expedite the process of calculating percentage change.

Syntax:
The PERCENTCHANGE function takes two arguments: the new value and the old value. The syntax is:
=PERCENTCHANGE(new_value, old_value)

Benefits:
Using the PERCENTCHANGE function offers several advantages. It’s a quick and efficient way to calculate percentage change without having to type out the formula yourself. Additionally, the function is less prone to errors, as it eliminates the need for manual calculations.

Example:
Suppose you have the new value in cell B3 and the old value in cell B4. To calculate the percentage change using the PERCENTCHANGE function, you would enter the following formula in a cell:
=PERCENTCHANGE(B3, B4)
. Excel will automatically calculate and display the percentage change as a result. 
Negative Values:
It’s important to note that the PERCENTCHANGE function handles negative values correctly. If the new value is less than the old value, the function will return a negative percentage change, indicating a decrease.
By utilizing the PERCENTCHANGE function, you can save time and minimize the risk of errors when calculating percentage change in Excel.
Format Cells as Percentages
To ensure that the results of your percentage change calculations are displayed correctly, it’s crucial to format the cells as percentages.

Select the Cells:
Highlight the cells containing the percentage change values that you want to format.

Access the Number Format Options:
Rightclick on the selected cells and choose “Format Cells” from the context menu. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + 1” to open the “Format Cells” dialog box.

Choose the Percentage Format:
In the “Format Cells” dialog box, navigate to the “Number” tab. Under the “Category” list, select “Percentage”.

Specify the Decimal Places:
In the “Decimal places” field, indicate how many decimal places you want to display in the percentage values. The default is two decimal places, but you can adjust it based on your preference.
By following these steps, you can ensure that the percentage change values are formatted correctly, making them easy to read and interpret.
Handle Negative Values and Division by Zero
When working with percentage change calculations, you may encounter negative values or division by zero scenarios. It’s important to understand how Excel handles these situations to ensure accurate and meaningful results.

Negative Values:
Negative values can arise when the new value is less than the old value, indicating a decrease. Excel handles negative values correctly and will display the percentage change as a negative value. This is useful for identifying and analyzing decreases in data.

Division by Zero:
Division by zero is a mathematical error that can occur when the old value is zero. To avoid this error, you can use the IF function to check if the old value is zero before performing the percentage change calculation. If the old value is zero, you can display a custom message or leave the cell blank.

Conditional Formatting:
Conditional formatting can be applied to cells containing percentage change values to visually highlight negative values or specific ranges of values. This makes it easier to identify and analyze data trends and exceptions.

Error Handling:
Excel provides various error handling functions, such as IFERROR and ISERROR, that can be used to handle errors gracefully. You can use these functions to display custom messages or take specific actions when errors occur during percentage change calculations.
By understanding how to handle negative values and division by zero, you can ensure that your percentage change calculations are accurate and informative, even in challenging scenarios.
Apply Conditional Formatting for Visual Insights
Conditional formatting is a powerful tool in Excel that allows you to apply different formatting styles to cells based on specific conditions. This can be particularly useful for visualizing percentage change data and gaining quick insights into trends and exceptions.
Here’s how you can apply conditional formatting to percentage change values:

Select the Cells:
Highlight the range of cells containing the percentage change values that you want to format. 
Open the Conditional Formatting Menu:
Click on the “Conditional Formatting” button in the “Styles” group on the Home tab. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut “Alt + H + L + F” to open the menu. 
Select a Formatting Rule:
From the dropdown menu, choose the conditional formatting rule that you want to apply. For example, you can select “Highlight Cells Rules” > “Greater Than” to highlight cells with percentage change values greater than a certain threshold. 
Set the Formatting Options:
Specify the formatting options you want to apply to the cells that meet the condition. This could include changing the cell color, font color, or adding a data bar. 
Apply the Formatting:
Once you are satisfied with the formatting options, click on the “OK” button to apply the conditional formatting to the selected cells.
By applying conditional formatting, you can easily identify positive and negative percentage changes, track trends over time, and quickly spot outliers or exceptional values in your data.
FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about using a calculator:
Question 1: What is the most basic type of calculator?
Answer: The most basic type of calculator is a fourfunction calculator, which can perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Question 2: How do I use a calculator to find the percentage of a number?
Answer: To find the percentage of a number, divide the percentage by 100, then multiply the result by the number. For example, to find 20% of 100, you would divide 20 by 100 to get 0.2, and then multiply 0.2 by 100 to get 20.
Question 3: How do I use a calculator to calculate the square root of a number?
Answer: Most calculators have a square root button, which is typically labeled as “√”. To calculate the square root of a number, simply enter the number and press the square root button.
Question 4: How do I use a calculator to solve an equation?
Answer: To solve an equation using a calculator, first enter the lefthand side of the equation, then press the equals button (=). Next, enter the righthand side of the equation and press the equals button again. The calculator will then display the solution to the equation.
Question 5: How do I use a calculator to calculate the area of a circle?
Answer: To calculate the area of a circle using a calculator, first square the radius of the circle. Then, multiply the squared radius by π (pi), which is approximately 3.14. The result will be the area of the circle.
Question 6: How do I use a calculator to convert between different units of measurement?
Answer: Many calculators have a unit conversion feature, which allows you to convert between different units of measurement, such as inches and centimeters or pounds and kilograms. To use the unit conversion feature, simply select the units you want to convert from and to, then enter the value you want to convert. The calculator will then display the converted value.
These are just a few of the many ways you can use a calculator to perform various mathematical operations and solve problems. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use a calculator to solve even the most complex equations and calculations.
Now that you know the basics of using a calculator, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of it:
Tips
Here are a few practical tips to help you get the most out of your calculator:
Tip 1: Learn the basic functions.
Most calculators have a variety of basic functions, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, and square roots. Make sure you understand how to use these functions before moving on to more complex calculations.
Tip 2: Use parentheses to group calculations.
Parentheses can be used to group together parts of a calculation, which can be helpful for ensuring that the calculation is performed in the correct order. For example, if you want to calculate (2 + 3) x 4, you would enter (2 + 3) x 4 into the calculator. This would ensure that the addition is performed before the multiplication.
Tip 3: Use the memory functions.
Many calculators have memory functions that allow you to store values and recall them later. This can be helpful for storing intermediate results or for performing multiple calculations on the same value.
Tip 4: Use the calculator’s builtin features.
Many calculators have builtin features that can be helpful for performing certain types of calculations. For example, some calculators have a unit conversion feature, which can be used to convert between different units of measurement. Others have a scientific function mode, which can be used to perform more advanced calculations.
By following these tips, you can learn how to use a calculator effectively and efficiently. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use a calculator to solve even the most complex equations and calculations.
Now that you know the basics of using a calculator and some practical tips, you’re well on your way to becoming a calculator pro!
Conclusion
Calculators are powerful tools that can be used to perform a wide variety of mathematical operations and solve complex problems. They are essential tools for students, engineers, scientists, and anyone else who needs to perform calculations on a regular basis.
In this article, we have explored the basics of using a calculator, including how to perform basic functions, use parentheses to group calculations, use the memory functions, and use the calculator’s builtin features. We have also provided some practical tips to help you get the most out of your calculator.
Whether you are using a simple fourfunction calculator or a more advanced scientific calculator, understanding the basics of how to use a calculator will help you to solve problems quickly and accurately. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use a calculator to solve even the most complex equations and calculations.
So, the next time you need to perform a calculation, don’t be afraid to reach for your calculator. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use it to solve problems like a pro!