SMALL: Excel Formulas Explained

Excel is a powerful tool that can do wonders in organizing your data, but it can be pretty overwhelming to get started with. Still, there's one formula that you don't need to be an expert to use: SMALL.

On first glance, SMALL doesn't seem like a whole lot. I mean, how useful could it be to get the nth smallest value from a list? Well, let me tell you, it's more useful than you might think.

What is the SMALL Function?

The SMALL function in Excel is a statistical function. It's used for finding the nth smallest number in a range of cells.

Here's how it works: You give the function two arguments—one for the range of data you want to find the nth value in, and another for the value of n itself.

For example, let's say you have a list of sales figures and you want to find the third highest sale. Here's what your formula would look like: =SMALL(A1:A100, 3).

The formula outputs the third-highest number in range A1:A100. Easy, right?

Understanding the Arguments

While SMALL is pretty simple for the most part, it's key to understand the two arguments needed to use it well.

The first argument of SMALL(range, k) will be the range of cells that you want to look for the nth smallest value in. Keep in mind that this range can be a single column, a single row or multiple rows and columns.

The second argument of SMALL(range, k) is the value for k, indicating the nth smallest value you're looking for.

It's important to remember that the value you choose for k is unable to exceed the total number of values within the range of cells you've put in SMALL functions.

When to Use the SMALL Formula

The SMALL formula is useful in a number of data analysis situations:

  • It can help you identify the top or bottom salespeople in a given range.
  • It can provide you with the least expensive items in a store inventory.
  • It can show you the smallest numbers in a thermometer or thermostat.

Basically, if you want to know the nth smallest or largest number in a range of cells or data set, use the SMALL function.

Let's Try It Out

Let's say we have a list of 25 numbers, and we want to know what the 5th smallest number is. Here's how we would utilize the SMALL function:

So, to get the 5th smallest number, we'd use the formula: === = SMALL(A2:A26, 5) ===

As you can see, this pops out the correct result.

Why You Need to Know SMALL Function

Those who are serious about analyzing data will find that small function to be an incredibly helpful tool. Here are a couple of reasons why:


Without the SMALL function, the only way to sort values by order manually would be by eyeballing each and every single value. That's tediously impossible when working with large data sets.

The SMALL function makes it incredibly efficient and effective to sort values of all sorts of data sets.


Precision is essential with every data set. Without precision, no one will take your data analysis work seriously. Using the SMALL function is a perfect way to ensure precision, allowing you to include the appropriate number of top or bottom values and more efficiently sort through an extensive range of data.

The final thing that you need to keep in mind is being careful with the number you input to `k`argument. If you enter a number greater than the total number of cells you have within the range, you'll end up with an error message.

So, that's a brief introduction to the SMALL function in Excel! It may not sound like the most exciting thing, but it really can help you out in a variety of data analysis situations.

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