Essential Excel Skills Every Evaluator Should Know by Elizabeth DiLuzio

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.


Happy Thursday, AEA365 community! My name is Liz DiLuzio. When I’m not curating the blog, I can be found teaching anything from one-day workshops to semester-long courses on tons of topics related to data analysis.

A student of mine recently applied to a MEL position where the first round of the selection process was a practical timed exercise in Excel. She wanted to know, based on my experience in the field, what topics I thought she should review before completing this exercise.

How’s that for a fun question?

Here’s what I told her:

Hot Tips:

  1. The top Excel trick to beat all others: PivotTables. It would be hard to convince me of any other single feature in Excel that is as high-leverage.
  2. Formulas such as SUM and SUMIF, COUNT and COUNTIF, for those times that you need summary information but a PivotTable would be too much.
  3. Any interactive dashboard for viewing aggregate information is incomplete without slicers. 
  4. When cleaning data, CONCAT is a good formula to know to combine data into a single cell while LEFT, RIGHT, and MID are handy tools for separating out data within a cell.
  5. Conditional formatting is a powerful and often overlooked feature. Highlight cells rules can be helpful for data cleaning, while data bars and color scales are excellent for data viz alternatives to the typical chart.   
  6. If all of the above are bush league for you, brush up on VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, and IF statements. DATEDIF is a hidden gem of a function when calculating age from birthdays. 

Rad Resources:

Interested to know more? I’m teaching a synchronous Excel basics workshop online at the beginning of March that will cover items 1-5 above.

Can’t make it, but want to be notified about upcoming workshops? Sign up for my newsletter here.

Want to read some other Excel must-have lists? Check these out:

Your Turn:

Are there any Excel skills I didn’t name that you think are a must-have for evaluators? Let me know in the comments!


Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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