Excel statistical functions: SLOPE

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SUMMARY

The purpose of this article is to describe the SLOPE function in Microsoft OfficeExcel 2003 and in later versions of Excel, to illustrate how the function is used, and to compare the results of the function in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel with the results of the SLOPE function in earlier versions of Excel.

MORE INFORMATION

The SLOPE(known_y's,known_x's) function returns the slope of the linear regression line that is used to predict y values from x values.

Syntax

SLOPE(known_y's,known_x's)
The arguments, known_y's and known_x's, must be arrays or cell ranges that contain equal numbers of numeric data values.

The most common usage of the SLOPE function includes two ranges of cells that contain the data, such as SLOPE(A1:A100, B1:B100).

Example of usage

To illustrate the SLOPE function, create a blank Excel worksheet, and then copy the following table. Select cell A1 in your blank Excel worksheet, and then paste the entries so that the table fills cells A1:D13 in your worksheet.
Collapse this tableExpand this table
y-valuesx-values
1= 3 + 10^$D$3Power of 10 to add to data
2=4 + 10^$D$30
3=2 + 10^$D$3
4=5 + 10^$D$3
5=4+10^$D$3
6=7+10^$D$3pre-Excel 2003
when D3 = 7.5
=SLOPE(A2:A7,B2:B7)0.75
when D3 = 8
#DIV/0!
After the table has been pasted in your Excel worksheet, click the Paste Options button, and then click Match Destination Formatting. With the pasted range still selected, use one of the following procedures, as appropriate for the version of Excel that you are running:
  • In Microsoft Office Excel 2007, click the Home tab, click Format in the Cells group, and then click AutoFit Column Width.
  • In Excel 2003, point to Column on the Format menu, and then click AutoFit Selection.
You may want to format cells B2:B7 as Number with 0 decimal places, and cells A9:D9 as Number with 6 decimal places.

Cells A2:A7 and B2:B7 contain the y-values and the x-values that are used to call SLOPE in cell A9.

If you have a version of Excel that is earlier than Excel 2003, be aware that SLOPE can exhibit rounding errors in the earlier versions. The behavior of SLOPE has been improved in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel.

If you use a version of Excel that is earlier than Excel 2003, the worksheet gives you a chance to run an experiment to discover when rounding errors occur. If you add a positive constant to each of the observations in cells B2:B7, it should not affect the value of SLOPE. If you plot x,y pairs with x on the horizontal axis and y on the vertical axis, adding a positive constant to each x value shifts the data to the right. The best-fit regression line would still have the same slope.

Increasing the value in cell D3 adds a larger constant to cells B2:B7. If cell D3 is less than or equal to 7, then there are no rounding errors that appear in the first 6 decimal places of SLOPE. But then try 7.25, 7.5, 7.75, and 8. Cells D7:D12 show values of SLOPE when cell D3 = 7.5 and 8 respectively. Note that rounding errors have become so severe that division by 0 occurs when cell D3 = 8.

Earlier versions of Excel produce wrong answers in these cases because the effects of rounding errors are more profound with the computational formula that is used by these versions. Still, the cases that are used in this experiment can be viewed as extreme.

If you have Excel 2003 or a later version of Excel, you will see no changes in the values of SLOPE if you try this experiment. However, cells D7:D12 show rounding errors that you would have obtained with earlier versions of Excel.

Results in earlier versions of Excel

For example, assume that the two data arrays are named X's and Y's. Earlier versions of Excel used a single pass through the data to compute the sum of squares of X’s, the sum of X's, the sum of Y's, the sum of XY's, and the count of the number of observations that are in each array. These quantities were then combined into the computational formula that is given in the Help file in earlier versions of Excel.

Results in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel

The procedure that is used in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel uses a two-pass process through the data. First, the sums of X's and Y's, and the count of the number of observations in each array are computed. From these the means (averages) of the X and the Y observations can be computed.

On the second pass, the following actions are taken:
  • The squared difference between each X and the X mean is found and these squared differences are summed.
  • The products (X – X mean) * (Y – Y mean) are found for each pair of data points and summed.
SLOPE is then computed as the ratio of the second of these sums to the first. Notice that neither of these sums is affected by adding a constant to each X value because that same value is added to the X mean.

In the numeric examples, even with a high power of 10 in cell D3, these three sums are not affected, and the results of the second pass are independent of the entry that is in cell D3. Therefore, the results in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel are more stable numerically than in earlier versions of Excel.

Conclusions

Replacing a one-pass approach by a two-pass approach gives better numeric performance of SLOPE in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel. The results in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel will never be less accurate than the results from earlier versions of Excel.

In most practical examples, however, you are not likely to notice a difference between the results in later versions of Excel results and the results in earlier versions of Excel. You are unlikely to notice a difference because typical data is unlikely to exhibit the kind of unusual behavior that this experiment illustrates. Numeric instability is most likely to appear in earlier versions of Excel when data contains a high number of significant digits that are combined with relatively little variation between data values.

The following procedure for finding the sum of squared deviations for a sample mean is more accurate than the alternative procedure:
  1. Find the sample mean.
  2. Compute each squared deviation.
  3. Sum the squared deviations.
The alternative procedure is frequently named the "calculator formula" because it is suitable for use with a calculator for a small number of data points. With the calculator formula, the procedure is as follows:
  1. Find the sum of squares of all observations, the sample size, and the sum of all observations.
  2. Compute the sum of squares of all observations minus {[(sum of all observations)^2]/sample size}.
There are many other functions that have been improved in Excel 2003 and in later versions of Excel. These functions are improved by replacing the one-pass procedure with the two-pass procedure that finds the sample mean on the first pass and computes the sum of squared deviations for the sample mean on the second pass.

A short list of such functions includes VAR, VARP, STDEV, STDEVP, DVAR, DVARP, DSTDEV, DSTDEVP, FORECAST, SLOPE, INTERCEPT, PEARSON, RSQ, and STEYX. Similar improvements were made in each of the three Analysis of Variance tools in the Analysis ToolPak.

Properties

Article ID: 828142 - Last Review: September 19, 2011 - Revision: 3.0
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2007
Keywords: 
kbformula kbexpertisebeginner kbinfo KB828142

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