SUM & AutoSUM | CSE 148 – Excel Exam 1

SUM explained

The SUM function operates very similar to a calculator summing numbers. Let's use the following list of numbers in a worksheet as an example:

If we were to use a calculator to add these numbers together, we'd do it like so:

However, if we were to use Excel to accomplish the same exact thing, we'd could do it like this:

Notice here, how we're using cell references instead of numbers. That's part of the power of Excel, it enables efficiency and "one source of truth". We'll get to that later, but for now, let's highlight the purpose behind the SUM function alone.

The SUM function takes a list of numbers and adds them together.

Coding a SUM

With the following code template...

=SUM(number1, [number2]...)

...we can sum our values by referencing each cell like so.

We can additionally find the sum of the list of values above by typing our SUM function and highlighting the cells like so:

SUMing 5 numbers in list

The ":" encapsulates all of the cells between the referenced cells on both sides of the ":".

In the case of A1:A5, we are highlighting all of the cells in between A1 and A5.

To test your understanding, what do you think A2:C5 would cover?

Visualizing the ":" functionality

All of the cells between A2 and C5!

If you're still confused, watch the GIF above and notice how the column/row values change in the second cell reference with each space I move.

However, what if one of the cells I wanted to include in the sum was not in the same column, like so?

All we'd need to do would be re-highlight my values while holding the Control button! (Mac users, hold the Command button).

SUMing 5 numbers not in list

To highlight multiple groupings of cells, hold down the Control button (for Mac users, hold down the Command button).

Coding an AutoSUM

If you have a list of values all in one column, you can use AutoSum (in the Formulas ribbon) to quickly obtain the sum.

AutoSum-ing numbers in vertical list

You can use AutoSum with a horizontal list of values too!

AutoSum-ing numbers in horizontal list

AutoSum is a powerful formula, however you need to make sure of one thing when using it...

Only use AutoSum if the cell containing the sum is directly in line with the cells you're summing.

If you attempt to AutoSum a list of values in a cell not in line with your values, AutoSum will not recognize what numbers you're trying to sum and won't work.

Practice Problem

Given the following values...

  1. Compute the "SUM Answer" with the SUM function in cell C1.
  2. Compute the "AutoSUM Answer" with the AutoSUM function in cell A6.

SUM Answer...


AutoSUM Answer...


Note: The "AutoSUM Answer" is the same as the "SUM Answer" because the AutoSUM function still uses the SUM function.

Next, let's learn about the difference between relative and absolute cell references!

Excel Cram Kit (Exam 1)

Want to unlock content? Get your Excel Cram Kit (Exam 1) now!

ToolsExcel Nerd Notes (Exam 1) (PREVIEW ONLY)
LessonSUM & AutoSUM
LessonRelative vs. Absolute Cell References
LessonPercent change (PREVIEW ONLY)
LessonExcel charts (PREVIEW ONLY)
LessonImporting text files (PREVIEW ONLY)

Excel Reviews (Exam 1)

"I bought this Cram Kit the night before my exam, and it helped me tremendously. It provides step-by-step explanations for all the units covered in class."

Matt Lamanna
Oct. 14, 2021

Leave a Comment