How to Make a Data Table for What-If Analysis in Excel

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Microsoft Excel logo on a green background

Microsoft Excel offers a few features for performing analyses on what-if scenarios. One of these tools is a Data Table. With it, you can experiment with different values to see various outcomes.

This is a helpful way to see things like loans, investments, product markups, and the like, with different variables. For instance, you may enter several different interest rates for a loan to see what your payment would be with each rate, all in one spot.

Create a One-Variable Data Table

Data Tables in Excel can include one or two varying inputs. So, let’s begin with a one-variable data table. We have calculated the future value of our investment with the FV function and constants for the annual interest rate, number of payments, and payment amount.

Future value data for the data table in Excel

Here, we’ll see what the future value of our investment would be with different interest rates.

You can enter your values in a column or row, but the placement affects where you should place your formula. If your values are in a column, place the formula one cell above and to the right. If your values are in a row, place the formula one cell below and to the left.

For our example, we’re using a column-oriented data table. As you can see in the screenshot below, we moved our formula over to column D and listed our interest rates in column C.

Formula and value placement

Select the cells containing the formula, values, and expected outputs. For us, this is C2 through D6.

Selected cells for the data table

Go to the Data tab, click the What-If Analysis drop-down arrow, and pick “Data Table.”

Data Table on the Data tab

In the Data Table box that opens, enter the cell reference for the changing variable and per your setup. For our example, we enter the cell reference B3 for the changing interest rate in the Column Input Cell field. Again, we’re using a column-based data table.

Column Input Cell reference

Click “OK” and you’ll see your results. Now we have the future value of our investment with each interest rate we entered.

Completed one-variable data table in Excel

Create a Two-Variable Data Table

You may want to add two variables to your data table for a more detailed analysis. Using our same example, we not only want the future value of our investment with different interest rates but would also like to see different future values by changing the number of payments.

RELATED: How to Use Excel’s “Quick Analysis” to Visualize Data

Since you’re using two variables, you’ll be using both a column- and row-oriented data table. So, place the formula directly above the column of values and to the left of the row of values as shown below.

Formula and value placement

Now, select all of the cells containing the formula, values, and expected outputs. For us, this is C2 through F6.

Selected cells for the data table

Go to the Data tab and select What-If Analysis > Data Table. When the box appears, enter both the row and column input cell references.

Using our example, we enter B3 for the Column Input Cell which is for our interest rate and B4 for the Row Input cell which is for our number of payments.

Column and Row Input Cell references

Click “OK” and you should see all outputs of your variables. Here, we have the future value of our investment using different interest rates and varying numbers of payments, all displayed in a nice and neat table.

Completed two-variable data table in Excel

The next time you want to analyze data in your sheet with varying numbers or amounts, consider using a Data Table. Not only are the calculations performed for you, but the outcome gives you a structured table for easy analysis.

RELATED: How to Create and Use a Table in Microsoft Excel





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