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How to use excel to calculate coefficient of variation

Updated February 21, 2017

The coefficient of variation, or CV, is a statistical measure of the central tendency or dispersion of a data set. Unlike other measurements of central tendency, the CV is normalised. This makes it particularly well-suited for analysing data whose standard deviation tends to increase along with the mean.

Enter the data to be analysed in one column of an Excel spreadsheet.

Use the Excel AVERAGE() function to calculate the mean of the data. In a blank cell on the spreadsheet, type "=AVERAGE(" (without quotes) and highlight all of the cells containing the data. Press "Enter" to see the mean of the data.

Use the Excel STDEV() function to calculate the standard deviation of the data. In a second empty cell, type "=STDEV(" (without quotes) and highlight the data. Press "Enter" to view the standard deviation of the data.

Divide the standard deviation by the mean: in a third empty cell, type "=" (without quotes) and click on the cell containing the standard deviation. Type "/" (without quotes) and click on the cell containing the mean. Press "Enter" to view the coefficient of variation.

Tip

A low value of CV, such as 0.05, indicates low dispersion of the data set.

Warning

The mean of the data must not be zero.

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About the Author

Kelvin O'Donahue has been writing since 1979, with work published in the "Arizona Geological Society Digest" and "Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists," as well as online. O'Donahue holds a Master of Science in geology from the University of Arizona, and has worked in the oil industry since 1982.