Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Using GEOMEAN with a Large List.

Using GEOMEAN with a Large List

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 19, 2014)

4

Ken wrote about a problem he was having with the GEOMEAN function. When he attempts to use the function on a large number of values (3,500 rows of data), he gets a #NUM error value returned.

The GEOMEAN function is used to return the geometric mean of a series of values. The GEOMEAN of n numbers is the n-th root of the product of the numbers. For example, if there are four values in a series (A through D), then the product of those numbers is A * B * C * D, and the GEOMEAN is the fourth root of that product.

The #NUM error would be return if any of three conditions were met: any of the values was equal to zero, any of the values was negative, or the limits of Excel were exceeded. It is likely that it is this last condition that Ken is running into, particularly if any of his 3,500 values are large.

Since GEOMEAN finds the product of the 3,500 numbers (multiplies them all by each other) and then takes the nth root, the product may easily be too large for Excel. The largest positive number in Excel is 9.99999999999999 * 10^307 (in scientific notation this is written as 9.99999999999999E+307). If the product gets larger than this number you will get a #NUM error for the function.

The solution is to use logs to do the calculation. This is easiest to understand when you look at a transformation of the GEOMEAN function:

GEOMEAN = (X1*X2*X3*...*Xn)^ (1/n)
ln(GEOMEAN) = ln((X1*X2*X3*...*Xn)^ (1/n))
ln(GEOMEAN) = (1/n) * ln(X1*X2*X3*...*Xn)
ln(GEOMEAN) = (1/n) * (ln(X1)+ln(X2)+ln(X3)+...+ln(Xn))
ln(GEOMEAN) = average(ln(X1)+ln(X2)+ln(X3)+...+ln(Xn))
GEOMEAN = exp(average(ln(X1)+ln(X2)+ln(X3)+...+ln(Xn)))

If you follow through the above, you see that GEOMEAN is equivalent to the exponent of the average of the logs of the values. You can calculate the desired result by using the following array formula instead of the GEOMEAN function:

=EXP(AVERAGE(LN(A1:A3500)))

This assumes that the desired values are in the range A1:A3500. Since it is an array formula, you must enter it into a cell by using Ctrl+Shift+Enter.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9328) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Using GEOMEAN with a Large List.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Converting UTC Times to Local Times

Dates and times are often standardized on UTC time, which is analogous to GMT times. How to convert such times to your local ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Everything Except Numbers

Got some numbers and letters mixed up in the same cell? You may need to get rid of those letters so you are left with just ...

Discover More

Quickly Deleting Rows and Columns

Deleting rows or columns is easy when you use the shortcut described in this tip. Just select the rows or columns and then ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Rounding to Even and Odd Values

Want to round values so they are always even or odd? You can do it quickly and easily by using the EVEN and ODD worksheet ...

Discover More

Cleaning Text

You can use the CLEAN worksheet function to remove any non-printable characters from a cell. This can come in handy when you ...

Discover More

Determining the Least Common Multiple

Need to figure out the least common multiple of a range of values? It is a snap when you use the LCM function, described in ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three more than 5?

2016-06-13 15:31:35

Candan

I see now that I missed the sentence about it being an array formula. Feel free to disregard my earlier comment.


2016-01-06 17:55:52

Miguel R

Thanks! I used it for 3,700 rows of data!


2015-04-14 13:45:52

Randall

How or could you use the AVERAGEIFS function on multiple conditions instead of the AVERAGE ?

=EXP(AVERAGE(LN(A1:A3500)))


2014-05-23 17:15:38

Jim Adams

Thank you so much for your instructions on this, they were very helpful.

Jim


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.