Microsoft Excel for statistics > Normal Distribution Probability in Excel
Before you begin, you might find it helpful to review what a normal distribution is. See: What is a normal distribution?
You can also review what different types of word problems you’re likely to come across. See:
Normal distributions Word Problems.
Watch the video, or read the steps below. Update 6/4/2016: Although I’m using an older version of Excel in this video, the steps are exactly the same for Excel 2016:
How to Calculate Normal Distribution Probability in Excel
While it’s possible to look up probabilities for a normal distribution using the z-table, it’s actually much easier to calculate probabilities in Excel for a couple of reasons. First, there’s no looking at a table; the NORMDIST function does the hard work for you. Second, Excel does the intermediate calculations for you. Most calculation errors happen in an intermediate step (such as calculating the z-score to look up) rather than the actual z-score itself. Excel can handle three types of probability calculations: more than, less than, and in between. These instructions work for Excel 2007 and Excel 2010.
Sample Question: Suppose that a contaminant in samples from a city’s water supply has a mean of 500 ppm and a standard deviation of 100 ppm. What is the probability that bacteria in a randomly selected water sample will be: 1/ less than 600 ppm 2/More than 600 ppm 3/between 400 and 600 ppm?
Calculate Normal Distribution Probability in Excel: Less than
Step 1: Click an empty cell.
Step 2: Click “Insert Formula”.
Step 3: Type “Normdist” into the search box and then click “Go.”
Step 4: Select “NORMDIST” from the list and then click “OK” to open the Function Arguments window.
Step 5: Enter your data into the box. For this example, type “600” in the X box, “500” in the Mean box, “100” in the Standard Deviation box and “true” in the cumulative box..
Step 6: Click “OK.”. This returns 0.84134474 in the cell you clicked in Step 1, which is the probability of getting under 600 ppm.
Calculate Normal Distribution Probability in Excel: More than
Step 7: Subtract your answer from Step 7 (above) from 1:
Calculate Normal Distribution Probability in Excel: Between
Step 8: Repeat Steps 1 through 8 for the second value, which for this example is 400. The probability is 0.15865526.
Step 9: Subtract the larger probability from the smaller probability. In this example:
0.84134474 – 0.15865526 = 0.68269
If you prefer an online interactive environment to learn R and statistics, this free R Tutorial by Datacamp is a great way to get started. If you're are somewhat comfortable with R and are interested in going deeper into Statistics, try this Statistics with R track.Comments? Need to post a correction? Please post on our Facebook page.