How to Calculate Percentages in Excel

Percentage Calculation Types

This page describes how to calculate percentages in Excel in three different ways.

The different percentage calculation types are:

Percentage of
a Number
E.g. What is 25% of 50?
Percentage as
a Proportion
E.g. if, out of 120 questions, you answer 90 correctly, how is this expressed as a percentage score?
Percentage
Change
E.g. if your sales figures are $1,250 in January and $1,750 in February, what is the percentage increase in February, compared to January?


How to Calculate a Percentage of a Number

If you want to calculate a percentage of a number in Excel, simply multiply the percentage value by the number that you want the percentage of.

For example, if you want to calculate 25% of 50, multiply 25% by 50.

I.e. type the following formula into any Excel cell:

=25%*50

- which gives the result 12.5.

For further examples of calculating a percentage of a number, see the How to Calculate a Percentage of a Number page.


How to Calculate a Percentage as a Proportion

If you want to calculate percentage as a proportion (i.e. calculate the size of a sample, as a percentage of a full set), simply divide the sample size by the size of the full set.

For example, if you take an exam and answer 90 out of 120 questions correctly, what is the percentage of correct answers?

The percentage score is calculated by simply dividing 90 by 120.

I.e. type the following formula into any Excel cell:

=90/120

- which gives the result 0.75, or 75%.

Note that, to get the result shown as a percentage, it is necessary to set the cell containing the result to have percentage formatting.

As with any Excel formula, the percentage calculation can use references to cells containing numbers, instead of actual numbers. This is shown in the Excel spreadsheet below.

 Formulas:

 AB
1Correct Answers:90
2Total Questions:120
3Percentage Score:=B1 / B2

 Results:

 AB
1Correct Answers:90
2Total Questions:120
3Percentage Score:75%

Note that the result in cell B3 of the above spreadsheet has been formatted as a percentage. The easiest way to apply percentage formatting is to select the cell to be formatted and then click on the percentage button within the 'Number' group on the Home tab of the Excel ribbon (see below):

Excel Format Cells As Percentage Button on Ribbon

How to Calculate Percentage Change

If you want to calculate the percentage change between value a and value b, this is done using the formula:

percentage change = ( b - a ) / a

For example if a soccer team scores 16 goals in season 1 and 20 goals in season 2, the percentage change in season 2, compared to season 1, is given by the formula:

percentage change = ( 20 - 16 ) / 16

This gives the result 0.25, or +25%

This percentage calculation is shown in the Excel spreadsheet below.

 Formulas:

 AB
1Season 1 Goals:16
2Season 2 Goals:20
3% Change:=(B2 - B1) / B1

 Results:

 AB
1Season 1 Goals:16
2Season 2 Goals:20
3% Change:25%

As in the previous example, in order to get the result displayed as a percentage, it is necessary to set cell B3 of the above spreadsheet to have percentage formatting.


Formatting to Display Percentages in Excel Cells

Percentages in Excel are stored as decimal values. For example, 25% is stored as the value 0.25, 50% is stored as the value 0.5, etc.

It is the formatting of a cell that makes the underlying decimal value appear as a percentage.

You can change a cell's formatting to display percentages in one of the following ways:

Method 1 - Percentage Formatting Through the Ribbon Options

The easiest way to change cell formatting is to select the cell(s) to be formatted and then select the percentage button from the 'Number' group on the Home tab of the Excel ribbon (see below):

Excel Format Cells As Percentage Button and Dialog Box Launcher

If you want to change the number of decimal places that are displayed, click on the Dialog Box Launcher (shown above). This opens up the 'Format Cells' Dialog Box, which allows you to specify the number of decimal places to be displayed.

Method 2 - Percentage Formatting Through the Format Cells Dialog Box

If you require more formatting options or if you have an older version of Excel, that does not have the ribbon, you can change the formatting of an Excel cell via the 'Format Cells' Dialog Box. To do this:

Excel Format Cells Dialog Box Percentage Option
Format Cells Dialog Box

Within the 'Format Cells' dialog box:

The result of formatting (with zero decimal places) is shown below.

 Values Displayed as Decimals:

 AB
10.5 
20.75 

 After Formatting as a Percentage:

 AB
150% 
275% 

Further examples of Calculating Percentages in Excel can be found on the Microsoft Office website.