Excel Tutorial: How To Check For Normal Distribution In Excel


Understanding normal distribution is essential for anyone working with statistical data. It is a key concept in statistics that helps in understanding the behavior and characteristics of data. In this Excel tutorial, we will explore the importance of checking for normal distribution in data analysis and learn how to do so using Excel.

Key Takeaways

  • Normal distribution is a key concept in statistics and is essential for understanding the behavior and characteristics of data.
  • Checking for normal distribution is important in data analysis as it helps ensure the validity of statistical tests and models.
  • Excel provides tools for checking normal distribution, such as creating histograms, using built-in functions, QQ plots, and the Shapiro-Wilk test.
  • If data is not normally distributed, there are techniques to transform the data or use alternative statistical tests.
  • It is important to practice and explore further with Excel's data analysis tools to enhance understanding and proficiency.

Understanding Normal Distribution

Normal distribution is a fundamental concept in statistics and is a key tool for analyzing and interpreting data. It is also known as the Gaussian distribution and is a bell-shaped symmetrical curve that represents the distribution of data in a population. In this tutorial, we will explore how to check for normal distribution in Excel.

A. Explanation of normal distribution

Normal distribution is a continuous probability distribution that is described by its mean and standard deviation. It is characterized by a symmetrical bell-shaped curve, where the mean, median, and mode are all equal and are located at the center of the distribution. The curve is also known for its specific properties, such as the 68-95-99.7 rule, which states that approximately 68% of the data falls within one standard deviation of the mean, 95% falls within two standard deviations, and 99.7% falls within three standard deviations.

B. Characteristics of a normal distribution curve

1. Symmetry

  • The normal distribution curve is symmetrical, with the mean, median, and mode all being equal and located at the center of the curve.

2. Bell-shaped

  • The curve is bell-shaped, with the majority of the data clustered around the mean and tapering off as it moves away from the center.

3. Standard deviation

  • The spread of the data around the mean is determined by the standard deviation, with approximately 68% of the data falling within one standard deviation, 95% falling within two standard deviations, and 99.7% falling within three standard deviations.

Understanding these characteristics is essential for identifying and interpreting a normal distribution curve in Excel.

Using Excel to Check for Normal Distribution

When working with data in Excel, it's important to be able to determine if it follows a normal distribution. Here's how you can use Excel to check for normal distribution.

A. Steps to input data into Excel
  • 1. Open a new Excel spreadsheet: Start by opening Excel and creating a new spreadsheet to work with your data.
  • 2. Input your data: Enter your data into a single column, with each data point in its own cell. Make sure the data is arranged in a single column without any empty cells in between.
  • 3. Label your data: It's a good practice to label your data so you can easily identify what it represents. You can use the cell above your data to add a label.

B. How to create a histogram in Excel
  • 1. Select your data: Highlight the cells containing your data.
  • 2. Insert a histogram: Go to the "Insert" tab on the Excel ribbon, then select "Histogram" from the "Charts" section. This will create a histogram based on your data.
  • 3. Adjust the histogram: You can customize the histogram by changing the bin width, axis labels, and other options to best display your data distribution.

C. Using Excel's built-in functions to check for normal distribution
  • 1. Calculate the mean and standard deviation: Use the =AVERAGE() and =STDEV() functions to calculate the mean and standard deviation of your data, respectively.
  • 2. Assess skewness and kurtosis: Excel provides functions like =SKEW() and =KURT() to calculate the skewness and kurtosis of your data, which can indicate if the data is normally distributed.
  • 3. Use the normality tests: Excel also offers built-in statistical tests like =NORM.DIST() and =NORM.S.DIST() to assess the normality of your data based on specific parameters.

Interpreting the Results

When checking for normal distribution in Excel, it's important to understand how to interpret the results. This involves understanding the histogram and analyzing the output from Excel's normal distribution functions.

A. Understanding the histogram
  • Shape: Pay attention to the shape of the histogram. A bell-shaped curve indicates a normal distribution, while skewed or distorted shapes may indicate a non-normal distribution.
  • Central Tendency: Look at the center of the histogram. If the data is symmetrically distributed around a central value, it suggests a normal distribution.
  • Variability: Consider the variability of the data. If the data is evenly spread out around the mean, it supports the case for normal distribution.

B. Analyzing the output from Excel's normal distribution functions
  • P-Value: The p-value obtained from Excel's normal distribution functions can provide insights into the probability of observing the data under the assumption that it is normally distributed. A low p-value may indicate a departure from normality.
  • Skewness and Kurtosis: Excel's functions can also provide measures of skewness and kurtosis. A skewness value close to zero and a kurtosis value close to three are indicative of normal distribution.
  • Visual Inspection: It's important to visually inspect the output from Excel's normal distribution functions, such as Q-Q plots, to assess the fit of the data to a normal distribution.

Additional Tools for Checking Normal Distribution

Aside from using histograms and normal probability plots to check for normal distribution in Excel, there are also additional tools that can be utilized. These tools provide more comprehensive analysis and a deeper understanding of the normality of the data.

QQ plot in Excel

The QQ plot, or quantile-quantile plot, is a graphical tool used to determine whether a dataset is normally distributed. In Excel, you can create a QQ plot by using the built-in scatter plot functionality and overlaying a theoretical normal distribution line. This allows you to visually assess the data points against the expected distribution, providing insight into the normality of the data.

  • Step 1: Select the dataset for which you want to create a QQ plot.
  • Step 2: Insert a scatter plot for the selected data.
  • Step 3: Add a trendline to the scatter plot and choose "Normal Distribution" as the type of trendline.
  • Step 4: Evaluate the QQ plot by comparing the data points to the trendline, looking for deviations from the expected normal distribution pattern.

Shapiro-Wilk test in Excel

The Shapiro-Wilk test is a statistical test used to assess the normality of a dataset. In Excel, this test can be conducted using the Data Analysis Toolpak, which provides a straightforward way to obtain the test results and interpret the normality of the data.

  • Step 1: Open the dataset for which you want to perform the Shapiro-Wilk test.
  • Step 2: Go to the "Data" tab and click on "Data Analysis" in the Analysis group.
  • Step 3: Select "Shapiro-Wilk Normality Test" from the list of available tools and click "OK."
  • Step 4: Specify the input range for the analysis and select the output options, then click "OK" to run the test.
  • Step 5: Interpret the test results, focusing on the p-value to determine the normality of the data. A higher p-value indicates a more normal distribution.

Tips for Handling Non-Normal Data

A. Transforming data to achieve normality

When dealing with non-normal data in Excel, it is important to consider data transformation as a method to achieve normality. Some common transformations include:

  • Logarithmic transformation: This technique is often used to stabilize variance and make the data more normally distributed.
  • Square root transformation: By taking the square root of the data, skewness and kurtosis can be reduced, leading to a more normal distribution.
  • Box-Cox transformation: This method allows for a range of transformations to be applied to the data, helping to achieve normality.

It is important to note that the choice of transformation should be based on the specific characteristics of the data and the research question at hand. In Excel, these transformations can be easily applied using built-in functions and formulas.

B. Alternative statistical tests for non-normal data

When normality cannot be achieved through data transformation, there are alternative statistical tests that can be used to analyze non-normal data. Some of these tests include:

  • Non-parametric tests: Tests such as the Mann-Whitney U test and the Wilcoxon signed-rank test do not rely on the assumption of normality and are suitable for non-normal data.
  • Bootstrapping: This resampling technique allows for the estimation of the sampling distribution of a statistic, making it robust to non-normality.
  • Robust regression: This type of regression analysis is less sensitive to outliers and non-normality in the data, providing more reliable estimates of the relationships between variables.

By considering these alternative statistical tests, researchers can still draw valid conclusions from non-normal data in Excel, without the need to force the data into a normal distribution.


Checking for normal distribution in data analysis is crucial for ensuring the accuracy and reliability of statistical tests and conclusions. In this tutorial, we explored the various Excel tools such as Histogram, Q-Q Plot, and Skewness and Kurtosis functions that can be utilized to check for normal distribution in a dataset. It is important to regularly practice using these tools to become proficient in identifying normal distribution patterns and anomalies in data. We encourage you to further explore and experiment with Excel's data analysis tools to enhance your analytical skills.

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