The Excel SKEW Function

Related Function:
SKEW.P Function

The Skew of a data set is a measurement of the asymmetry of the distribution about the mean.

  • A skew of zero indicates perfect symmetry;
  • A positive skew indicates that more values lie below the mean and the distribution has a 'tail' which extends towards the higher values;
  • A negative skew indicates that more values lie above the mean and the distribution has a 'tail' which extends towards the lower values.

Examples of positive and negative skewed distributions are shown in the charts below:

Examples of Positive and Negative Skewed Distributions
Positive Skew Negative Skew
For more information on skewness, see the Wikipedia Skewness page

Function Description

The Excel SKEW function calculates the skewness of the distribution of a supplied set of values.

The syntax of the function is:

SKEW( number1, [number2], ... )

Where the number arguments provide a minimum of 3 numeric values that make up the data set.

In the latest versions of Excel (Excel 2007 and later), you can input up to 255 number arguments to the Skew function, but in Excel 2003, the function can only accept up to 30 arguments. However, each number argument can be an individual value or an array of values.

Skew Function Example

  A B
1 1  
2 1  
3 2  
4 2  
5 2  
6 2  
7 3  
8 3  
9 3  
10 4  
11 4  
12 5  
13 6  
14 7  
15 8  

Column A of the above spreadsheet on the right shows 15 data values. The distribution of these values is shown in the chart below:

Distribution of Points in Skew Function Example

The skewness of the values in the spreadsheet can be calculated using the Excel Skew Function as follows:

=SKEW( A1:A15 )

This gives the result 0.863378312, indicating that the data set has a positive skew.

For further details and examples of the Excel Skew function, see the Microsoft Office website.

Skew Function Errors

If you get an error from the Excel Skew function this is likely to be one of the following:

Common Errors
#DIV/0! -

Occurs if either:

  • Fewer than 3 data values have been supplied to the function;
  • The sample standard deviation of the supplied data values is zero.
#VALUE! - Occurs if any of the supplied number arguments that are supplied directly to the Skew function are not recognised as numeric values.