How To Do Standard Deviation in Google Sheets

Published: October 18, 2023 - 7 min read

Vijay Srinivas
how to do standard deviation in google sheets

Standard deviation is a crucial statistical measure that helps businesses understand the variability and dispersion of data. 

Knowing how to calculate standard deviation in Google Sheets is an essential skill for anyone that handles data in their day-to-day activities. 

This guide will provide you with a thorough understanding and a step-by-step walkthrough of this crucial statistical measure.

Let’s get started! 

Step-By-Step Guide To Calculating Standard Deviation in Google Sheets

Understanding standard deviation in Google Sheets begins with setting up a data set and learning the necessary functions. 

But first, let’s walk through what each function does and how to correctly apply them.

Guide To Setting up a Data Set

Begin by inputting your data into individual cells in columns or rows. 

For example, if you’re inputting weekly sales data, you can record each day’s sales in a separate cell.

Breakdown of Different Standard Deviation Functions in Google Sheets and Their Uses

Google Sheets provides several default functions for different standard deviation calculations. 

The two primary functions are STDEV.P and STDEV.S.

STDEV.P Function

The STDEV.P function, or “Standard Deviation Population,” calculates the standard deviation based on the entire population. 

Use this function when your data represents the entire data pool you’re analyzing. 

An example could be if you have sales numbers for every store in your company and you want to see the standard deviation among all the stores.

STDEV.S Function

The STDEV.S function, or”Standard Deviation Sample,” is used to evaluate   a sample of the total population. 

Detailed Instructions for Calculating Standard Deviation Using These Functions

The syntax for using these functions is simple. 

For STDEV.P, start by typing “=STDEV.P(range of cells)” in the cell where you want your standard deviation result to appear. 

Replace “range of cells” with the actual cells holding your data.

For the STDEV.S function, use “=STDEV.S(range of cells).” 

Once you input your chosen function, press enter.  Google Sheets will calculate the standard deviation

DSTDEV vs. DSTDEVP

Two other standard deviation functions exist—DSTDEV and DSTDEVP. Both DSTDEV and DSTDEVP are used for databases rather than simple data ranges. 

While DSTDEV focuses on the sample standard deviation, DSTDEVP zeroes in on the population standard deviation.

What Is the Difference Between STDEV and STDEVP in Google Sheets?

STDEV simply refers to standard deviation. Standard deviation is a mathematical concept used in statistics to measure how spread out the numbers in a data set are. It quantifies the amount of variation or dispersion in the data set. 

Businesses and individuals can use STDEV  to help make data-driven, as it indicates the likelihood of new data falling within a certain range.

STDEVP is used when the data set represents a complete population. 

That means you have data for every possible relevant case or individual, and you want to determine the standard deviation for the whole population. 

For instance, if you’ve got the total sales data for every branch of your company globally and you aim to find the standard deviation among these branches, use STDEV.P.

How To Show Standard Deviation on a Scatter Graph in Google Sheets

Visualizing standard deviation can often give you a better understanding of the data distribution. A common way to do this is by creating a scatter graph in Google Sheets. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by arranging your data set into two columns. The first column will hold the values associated with the x-axis, and the second column will hold the values associated with the y-axis.
  2. Once your data is arranged, highlight your two columns of data.
  3. Go to the menu bar, click “Insert,” and then select “Chart” from the dropdown menu. A chart will pop up on your sheet.
  4. In the Chart Editor panel on the right, click the “Chart type” dropdown menu and select “Scatter chart.”
  5. Once your scatter chart appears, click the “Customize” tab in the Chart Editor.
  6. Scroll down until you see the “Series” section. Here, you can choose to add “Error bars,” which can be used to represent standard deviation. Click on “Error bars.”
  7. In the dropdown menu that appears, select “Percent.” Then, in the “Percentage” field, type in the value of your calculated standard deviation (multiply the standard deviation by 100 if your original data was in the form of percentages).
  8. Once you’ve done this, click “Enter.” You’ll now see lines representing the standard deviation on your scatter chart.

Remember, standard deviation is all about how spread out your data is. The longer the error bars (representing standard deviation), the more varied your data likely is.

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Common Mistakes and Troubleshooting

Calculating standard deviation in Google Sheets is a straightforward process, but some common mistakes can cause errors in your results. Learn these errors and discover how to avoid them.

Incorrect Range Selection

If you make a mistake in selecting the range of data to be evaluated, the standard deviation result will be skewed. Always double-check that you’ve chosen the correct data range before hitting enter.

Wrongly Applying STDEV.P and STDEV.S

Using the STDEV.P function when your data set is a sample (and not the entire population) or vice versa can lead to incorrect results. Be sure you understand the difference between these functions and apply the correct one for your data set.

Including Non-Numerical Data

The standard deviation functions can only handle numerical data. Including non-numerical data will result in an error. 

Be sure to exclude these cells from your calculation.

Troubleshooting Steps for Common Issues

If you encounter errors or issues while calculating the standard deviation in Google Sheets, here are some steps you can take:

  1. If you receive an error message, first confirm that your data range is correct and you have not included non-numerical values.
  2. Double-check your formula syntax and ensure the correct function is used.
  3. If you still cannot determine the issue, refresh your Google Sheets page. Sometimes, browsers can experience issues that may impact functionality.

By understanding common mistakes and how to troubleshoot them, you can ensure accurate standard deviation calculations in your Google Sheets documents.

Advanced Tips for Using Standard Deviation in Google Sheets

Apart from the already discussed STDEV.P, STDEV.S, DSTDEV, and DSTDEVP functions, Google Sheets offers a few more functions for calculating standard deviation.

These functions include:

STDEVA

This function calculates the standard deviation based on a population sample, like STDEV.S, and can handle text and logical values.

STDEVPA

This function calculates standard deviation based on the entire population, including text and logical values.

Ways To Utilize Standard Deviation in Advanced Data Analysis

You can use standard deviation in Google Sheets to filter and analyze data effectively. For example, you can use it to find outliers in your data set. 

Outliers can drastically skew your calculations and may not reflect the true nature of your data set. By employing standard deviation, you can filter out these outliers and better interpret your data.

Use Standard Deviation in Google Sheets for Data Analysis

Calculating the standard deviation in Google Sheets is a fundamental skill for anyone dealing with data analysis. Understanding the difference between different functions like STDEV and STDEVP and knowing when to use each will give you more accurate results. 

Displaying your standard deviation visually on a scatter graph can also help you interpret data better. Avoid common mistakes and apply troubleshooting steps to get the most accurate results.

List of Additional Resources for Further Reading and Learning

Continuing your education on standard deviation and its applications in Google Sheets is beneficial for those who frequently work with data. For in-depth knowledge and further reading, consider the following resources:

  1. Spreadsheet.com: Provides various tutorials on functions in Google Sheets, including standard deviation.
  2. Google Support: Offers help articles and user guides on using Google Sheets.
  3. Khan Academy: Offers free courses on statistics and probability, which include lessons on standard deviation.
  4. Coefficient.io: Provides comprehensive articles and tools for data analytics, data integration, and Google Sheets.

With these resources, you can dive further into standard deviation calculations and other nuances of Google Sheets. This will help you handle your data with increased precision and understanding.

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Vijay Srinivas GTM @ Coefficient
Vijay Srinivas is an engineer turned marketer who loves to dabble in data and has 6 years of experience in GTM for Startups and SaaS orgs. Building his skills currently to be a PLG & spreadsheet expert.
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