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 July 31, 2018)

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

Restoring a Keyboard Shortcut

Word uses keyboard shortcuts for all sorts of tasks. Sometimes you may create a shortcut that messes up one of the other ...

Discover More

Cropping Pictures

Excel allows you to easily add graphics to a worksheet. If you want to crop an image you previously added, here's how to ...

Discover More

Determining Sorting Criteria

If you need to know how a range of data is sorted, the task is not as easy as you might at first think. This tip examines ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Determining Columns in a Range

If you need to know the number of columns in a particular range, you can use the COLUMNS worksheet function. This tip ...

Discover More

Using the EOMONTH Function

If you need to determine the date of the last day in a month, it's hard to beat the flexibility of the EOMONTH function. ...

Discover More

Using the ABS Function

Need to find the absolute value of a number? That's where the ABS function comes into play.

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 6Mpixels. 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 one less than 8?

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.