How to Use Excel Ranking Function Like a Pro?

Microsoft Excel remains an essential tool for professionals across numerous industries. Its "Rank Function" stands out among its powerful features, providing a quick and effective way to organize and analyze numerical data. This function streamlines the process and aids in data-driven decision-making, whether for ranking student grades, showcasing sales successes, or assessing market trends.

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What Is the RANK Function?

The RANK function in Excel determines the rank of a specific number in a list of numbers. Its primary purpose is to help you see how a number compares to others in the same list. The RANK function can also sort numbers in either ascending or descending order.

Here's a basic breakdown of how the RANK function works:

  • Syntax: RANK(number, ref, [order])
  • number: The number whose rank you want to find.
  • ref: An array of, or reference to, a list of numbers.
  • order: An optional argument where 0 (or omitted) sorts numbers in descending order (i.e., larger numbers have a lower rank), and 1 sorts numbers in ascending order (i.e., smaller numbers have a lower rank).

Example Usage:

=RANK(A2, A$2:A$10, 0)

This formula would calculate the rank of the value in cell A2 within the range A2 to A10, ranking higher numbers with a lower rank number.

The RANK function is particularly useful in statistics, competitive analysis, and scenarios where performance or outcomes relative to a group need to be evaluated.

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RANK Function Formula

To use the RANK function in Excel, you must provide specific inputs according to its syntax. Here's a detailed explanation of how to construct a formula using the RANK function:


RANK(number, ref, [order])

  • number: The number you want to find the rank of.
  • ref: A range of cells containing the numbers against which the rank will be evaluated.
  • order (optional): This argument determines the order of ranking. If it is 0 or omitted, the numbers are ranked in descending order (higher numbers receive a lower rank). If it is 1, the numbers are ranked in ascending order (lower numbers receive a lower rank).

Example Usage

Suppose you have a list of sales figures in cells B2 through B10, and you want to find out the rank of each sales figure in this list in descending order (so higher sales figures get a lower rank):

Basic Formula without the order argument (default descending order):

=RANK(B2, $B$2:$B$10)

Here, B2 is the cell with the number whose rank you want to determine. $B$2:$B$10 is an absolute reference to the range of numbers against which the rank is calculated.

Formula with the order argument set to descending:

=RANK(B2, $B$2:$B$10, 0)

This explicitly sets the ranking to descending, though it's unnecessary since descending is the default.

Formula with the order argument set to ascending:

=RANK(B2, $B$2:$B$10, 1)

This changes the ranking so that lower numbers are ranked lower.

You would drag this formula down from B2 to B10 to rank each number in the range based on its position within the specified order.

How to Use the RANK Function in Excel?

Using the RANK function in Excel is straightforward once you understand its parameters and how they affect the ranking results. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use the RANK function effectively:

Step 1: Prepare Your Data

Ensure your data is organized in a column or row where you can easily reference it. For example, you might have a list of scores, sales figures, or other numerical data you want to rank.

Step 2: Insert the RANK Function

  • Select the Cell: Click on the cell where you want the rank result to appear.
  • Enter the Formula: Start typing =RANK( and Excel will typically show a tooltip with the syntax to guide you.

Step 3: Define the RANK Function Parameters

  • Number: Click on the cell containing the number you want to rank or type its cell reference.
  • Ref: Highlight the range of cells against which the number will be ranked or type the range reference. If you copy the formula to other cells, use absolute references (with $).
  • Order (optional): Enter 0 for descending order (default, where higher values have a lower rank) or 1 for ascending order (where lower values have a lower rank).


Suppose you have a list of monthly sales figures in column A (from A2 to A10), and you want to rank these sales figures in descending order. Here’s how you would use the RANK function:

  • Click in cell B2 to enter the rank for the sales figure in A2.
  • Type the formula: =RANK(A2, $A$2:$A$10)
  • Press Enter to see the rank of the sales figure in cell A2.
  • Drag the fill handle (small square at the bottom right corner of the cell) down from B2 to B10 to copy the formula for the other cells.

Step 4: Copy the Formula

If you want to rank other numbers in the same list, copy the formula to other cells in the column or row adjacent to your data. The absolute reference to the range ensures that the correct array of numbers is used for ranking each time.

Step 5: Adjust and Verify

Review the results to ensure they make sense based on your ranking criteria (ascending or descending). If necessary, adjust the formula or correct any data errors.

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Understanding the RANK.EQ and RANK.AVG Functions

In Excel, along with the RANK function, there are two other variants that are very useful for handling ranking with slightly different behaviors: RANK.EQ and RANK.AVG. These functions are helpful when dealing with datasets that include duplicate values. Here's a closer look at each function and its specific use:

RANK.EQ Function

The RANK.EQ function is the successor to the older RANK function in more recent versions of Excel. It works the same way as RANK but is more explicitly named to clarify its behavior with ties in data.

Syntax: RANK.EQ(number, ref, [order])

  • number: The number whose rank you are calculating.
  • ref: The array or range of data against which the number is ranked.
  • order (optional): Specifies how to sort the ranking. 0 (or omitted) for descending order; 1 for ascending order.
  • Behavior with Duplicates: When there are duplicates in the dataset, RANK.EQ gives the same rank to the duplicate values, and the next rank(s) is skipped. For example, if two items are tied for second place, both receive a rank of 2, and the next item ranks 4.

RANK.AVG Function

The RANK.AVG function addresses the issue of ties differently by averaging the ranks that would have been assigned to all the duplicates.

Syntax: RANK.AVG(number, ref, [order])

  • number: The number to rank.
  • ref: The array or range of data for ranking.
  • order (optional): The order of ranking, where 0 (or omitted) sorts in descending order and 1 is in ascending order.
  • Behavior with Duplicates: In the case of ties, RANK.AVG will assign the average rank to each of the duplicates. For instance, if two items tie for second place, both get a rank of 2.5, and the next rank would have been 3.

Example Usage of RANK.EQ and RANK.AVG

Let's consider a dataset of scores: 88, 76, 88, 90 in cells A1 through A4.

Using RANK.EQ:

In cell B1, if you input =RANK.EQ(A1, $A$1:$A$4), the rank for the score 88 (assuming descending order) would be 2, as there is one score higher (90). The other 88 would also get a rank of 2, skipping rank 3.


In cell B1, if you input =RANK.AVG(A1, $A$1:$A$4), the score 88 would receive a rank of 2.5 because the ranks (2 and 3) are averaged for the two instances of 88.

When to Use Each

  • Use RANK.EQ: Use this when you need a traditional ranking system in which ties are given the same rank and subsequent ranks are skipped.
  • Use RANK.AVG: When you want a fair representation of ranks, particularly in statistical or analytical scenarios where the distribution of ranks affects the outcome, such as calculating averages or other statistical measures.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Excel Ranking

When using ranking functions in Excel, such as RANK, RANK.EQ, and RANK.AVG, there are several common mistakes that users often make. Awareness of these can help you ensure more accurate results and effective use of the functions. Here are some key mistakes to avoid:

1. Incorrect Range References

  • Mistake: Do not use absolute references for the range when copying the formula to other cells. This can result in each cell referencing a different range, leading to inconsistent and incorrect rankings.
  • Solution: Use absolute references (e.g., $A$1:$A$10) for the range when setting up your ranking formulas. This ensures that the same range is used consistently across multiple cells.

2. Ignoring Ties

  • Mistake: Using RANK or RANK.EQ, without considering the implications of how ties are treated, can skew analysis if the specific handling of ties matters in the context of your data.
  • Solution: Decide if ties should have the same rank or if their ranks should be averaged. Use RANK.EQ to assign the same rank to ties (with subsequent ranks skipped) and RANK.AVG to average the ranks of ties.

3. Wrong Order Argument

  • Mistake: Forgetting to set or setting the wrong order argument, leading to results being sorted in an unintended order (ascending vs. descending).
  • Solution: Always check the order argument in your function; use 0 or omit it for descending order, and use 1 for ascending order. Ensure this aligns with your analysis needs.

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4. Misunderstanding the Output

  • Mistake: Misinterpreting what the rank numbers signify, especially when using RANK.AVG, where fractional ranks can sometimes be confusing.
  • Solution: Understand and explain (if necessary) the fractional ranks in RANK.AVG indicates average positions due to ties and is a normal part of the function's output.

5. Using the Wrong Function for Data Analysis Needs

  • Mistake: Choosing a ranking function that does not fit the specific requirements of your data analysis or reporting can lead to misleading conclusions.
  • Solution: Assess the needs of your data analysis. Use RANK.EQ for standard ranking and RANK.AVG for statistical analysis where tie handling impacts outcomes. Consider other statistical functions if ranking isn't needed.

6. Not Updating Range References When Data Expands

  • Mistake: Failing to update the range references in your formulas when new data is added, resulting in new data points not being considered in the rankings.
  • Solution: Regularly check and update the ranges in your formulas to include all relevant data, especially after adding new entries to your dataset.
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The rank function in Excel is a crucial tool widely utilized across different fields of study. It is a valuable asset for professionals to assign ranks within various datasets. This function is particularly effective when applied to extensive datasets, providing key insights that inform future research and trend analysis. Mastering such functions in Excel is becoming increasingly important as data analysis expands. Simplilearn's Data Analysis course offers comprehensive training on the rank function alongside other essential tools, equipping you with the knowledge to excel in diverse research activities.


1. How do you use the rank function in Excel?

In Excel, use the RANK function by entering =RANK(number, ref, [order]) where number is the value to rank, ref is the range of data against which the number is ranked, and order is optional (0 for descending, 1 for ascending).

2. What is the rank AVG function in Excel?

The RANK.AVG function in Excel calculates the rank of a number, averaging ranks for ties. It’s used as =RANK.AVG(number, ref, [order]), where the order is 0 for descending and 1 for ascending.

3. How do I sort rank in Excel?

To sort ranks in Excel, first calculate the rank using the RANK, RANK.EQ, or RANK.AVG function. Then, select the column with the rank numbers and use the "Sort Smallest to Largest" or "Sort Largest to Smallest" option under the Data tab.

4. What is rank average?

Rank average refers to the ranking method that assigns the average of the ranks that would have been assigned to all the tied values. It provides a fair ranking when multiple entries have the same value.

5. What is the use of rank AVG?

The RANK.AVG function is used in Excel to assign an average rank to tied values, ensuring a fair and equitable ranking system; especially useful in statistical analysis where the precise distribution of data points affects results.

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