Excel's RANK() function returns the rank of a value within the context of a list of values. By *rank*, I mean a value's relative position to the other values in the list. You could just sort the list, but that's not always practical and doing so won't return a rank, although you can easily see which values rank highest and lowest in a sorted list.

The figure below shows the RANK() function at work in a simple spreadsheet. The function in cells F2:F5 returns the rank of the four values in E2:E5. Those values are the result of the following SUMIF() function:

`=SUMIF($A$2:$A$9,$D2,$B$2:$B$9)`

The SUMIF() returns a total for each individual listed in column A. (You can recreate this spreadsheet or work with a simple column of values.)

**About RANK()**

The RANK() function has three arguments:

RANK(*number*,*reference*,[*order*])

where *number* is the value you're ranking, *reference* identifies the list of values you're comparing *number* against, and *order* specifies an ascending or descending rank. If you omit *order*, Excel assumes the value 0, which ranks values in descending order. Any value other than 0 ranks in ascending order. In this example, I enter the following function into cell F2:

`=RANK(E2,$E$2:$E$5)`

Notice that *number* is relative but *reference *is absolute. You'll want to maintain that structure when applying this to your own spreadsheet. Copy the function in F2 to F3:F5. The largest value, 120, returns a rank of 1. The lowest value, 98, is 4. To reverse the ranking order, include *order* as follows:

`=RANK(E2,$E$2:$E$5,1)`

**Understanding a tie**

Something you'll want to watch for is a tie. RANK() will return the same rank for a value that occurs more than once. Interestingly, RANK() accommodates the tie by skipping a rank value. For instance, the following spreadsheet shows what happens when both Alexis and Kate have the same value (101). The rank for both is 2 and there's no rank of 3. The lowest value still ranks as 4.

There's no argument to change this behavior. If a tie isn't valid, you must find a second set of criteria to include in the comparison.

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## Full Bio

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.