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Excel 2020: Create a Bell Curve in Excel


March 23, 2020 - by Bill Jelen

Create a Bell Curve. Photo Credit: Chris Barbalis at Unsplash.com

I have 2200 Excel videos on YouTube. I can never predict which ones will be popular. Many videos hover around 2,000 views. But for some reason, the Bell Curve video collected half a million views. I am not sure why people need to create bell curves, but here are the steps.

A bell curve is defined by an average and a standard deviation. In statistics, 68% of the population will fall within one standard deviation of the mean. 95% falls within two standard deviations of the mean. 99.73% will fall within three standard deviations of the mean.

Say that you want to plot a bell curve that goes from 100 to 200 with the peak at 150. Use 150 as the mean. Since most of the results will fall within 3 standard deviations of the mean, you would use a standard deviation of 50/3 or 16.667.


  1. Type 150 in cell B1.
  2. Type =50/3 in cell B2.
  3. Type headings of Point, X, Y in cells A4:C4.
  4. Fill the numbers 1 to 61 in A5:A65. This is enough points to create a smooth curve.

    This spreadsheet shows the cells described in the four steps above.
  5. Go to the midpoint of the data, point 31 in B35. Type a formula there of =B1 to have the mean there.
  6. The formula for B36 is =B35+($B$2/10). Copy that formula from row 36 down to row 65.
  7. The formula for B34 is =B35-($B$2/10). Copy that formula up to row 5. Note that the notes in columns C:E of this figure do not get entered in your workbook - they are here to add meaning to the figure.

    The bell curve will have 61 points. Put the Mean in the middle (31st) point. From there, each cell below is 1/10 the standard deviation more than the previous row. Each cell above is 1/10 the standard deviation less than the next row.

    The magic function is called NORM.DIST which stands for Normal Distribution. When statisticians talk about a bell curve, they are talking about a normal distribution. To continue the current example, you want a bell curve from 100 to 200. The numbers 100 to 200 go along the X-axis (the horizontal axis) of the chart. For each point, you need to calculate the height of the curve along the y-axis. NORM.DIST will do this for you. There are four required arguments: =NORM.DIST(This x point, Mean, Standard Deviation, False). The last False says that you want a bell curve and not a S-curve. (The S-Curve shows accumulated probability instead of point probability.)

  8. Type =NORM.DIST(B5,$B$1,$B$2,False) in C5 and copy down to row 65.

    Using the X values from the previous image, calculate Y values using NORM.DIST. The function returns very small numbers at the left and right end of the bell curve, peaking at the midpoint.
  9. Select B4:C65. On the Insert tab, open the XY-Scatter drop-down menu and choose the thumbnail with a smooth line. Alternatively, choose Recommened Charts and the first option for a bell curve.

    On the Insert tab, there are five thumbnails in the XY-Scatter chart drop-down. You want the second thumbnail which has points and smooth lines.

The result: a bell curve, as shown here.

This bell curve extends from 100 to 200 with the peak at 150.

Title Photo: Chris Barbalis at Unsplash.com


This article is an excerpt from MrExcel 2020 - Seeing Excel Clearly.


Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
Excel Dynamic Arrays Straight to the Point 2nd Edition

Fifteen months after Dynamic Arrays debuted for Office Insiders, the functions are being released to General Availability. This second edition of the book has been updated with new examples: see how Dynamic Arrays make XLOOKUP better. The chapter on the logic behind arrays has been expanded.