Excel for Beginners - The Free Excel 100 Course

Have you ever worked with someone who seems to just know everything about Excel?

They get their work done faster and more accurately, and half the time, they’re not even the ones doing the work - they just type in some values and Excel does it for them! For those who don’t know the program as well, it can all seem a little unfair and out-of-reach.

The good news is that Excel pros aren’t born that way. Everyone is capable of learning Excel with some expert guidance and lots of (fun!) practice.

This Excel 100 course is the first step on your journey to automating tasks, working smarter, and - most importantly - working less.

Excel for Beginners

“It has been a real pleasure to learn and understand Excel. It makes me feel like I have conquered something.”

Excel University Student Tracy

"The biggest win for me is saving more time. I now have a much greater understanding of what Excel can do."

Excel University Student Sean

“My role and my job feels different now due to Excel University. I can trust my worksheets and the work that I do.”

Excel University Student Holly

Excel for Beginners - Course Overview

By the time you’ve completed Excel 100, you’ll know how to use formulas, reference cells, delegate work to Excel, and have a solid foundation for future Excel learning.

If you're an aspiring Excel pro who isn't quite sure where to start, this Excel for beginners course is for you!

Excel is an app with thousands of features, and that makes people a little hesitant and overwhelmed. Knowing some basic Excel survival skills will make navigation much easier and less intimidating. In this course, you'll learn practical skills you can use immediately as well as principles to keep in mind as you use Excel.

The best way to master the basics is through hands-on practice, so this course includes lesson videos and handouts. You can download the Excel files and work along!

In this short overview video, we discuss the learning objectives and get a preview of the lessons.

Learning Objectives

  • Overall structure and organization of Excel
  • Excel terminology
  • Practical hands-on skills
  • Principles and good habits
  • 3 keys unlock the door to Excel

Note: the video controls enable you to play in full-screen, adjust playback speed and quality, and turn captions on or off. 

Excel for Beginners - Lesson 1

Follow along with this lesson to learn about the structure of Excel (including cells, rows, columns, etc.), understand the difference between stored and displayed values, and get a solid grasp of basic Excel lingo.

Excel is used for all different types of work. From analysis comparison, to making crochet patterns, to game creation, and more, Excel is one of the most versatile and flexible applications available. But, all those capabilities are what make it intimidating for new users.

In the beginning, the goal is almost always to just get the work done. This is perfectly normal and fine when you're first starting out; however, it's important to learn early that some ways are faster than others.

As you move through the lessons, your goal will shift from just getting the work done to getting it done efficiently.

Here's more about what you'll learn in this lesson:

  • Workbook - the Excel file you open, which contains your worksheets.
  • Worksheets - appear as tabs on the bottom of the Excel window.
  • Rows - horizontal lines on the worksheet.
  • Columns - vertical lines on the worksheet.
  • Cells - the intersection of a row and a column.
  • Range - a collection of two or more cells grouped together.
  • Data Type - what kind of data the user types into a cell (number, text, date, etc).
  • Alignment - where in the cell your data sits (right, center, left, etc.)
  • Stored Value - the data that was typed into a cell.
  • Displayed Value - the cell value you see (sometimes different than the stored value due to formatting).

Excel for Beginners - Lesson 2

Do you know the difference between a function and a formula? The terms are often used interchangeably, but they're actually two separate things! By the end of the video, you'll know the difference between the two and how they work in Excel.


Formulas are truly what make Excel, Excel.

They're a core element that gives users so many different options and capabilities. While typing values directly into cells gets the job done in many cases, it's not the most efficient use of Excel and limits the user in many ways. They also allow your worksheets to adapt to future changes.

In this lesson, you'll learn how formulas allow the user to delegate tasks to Excel instead of having to calculate or insert the values themselves.

Key terms covered in this lesson:

  • Function - preset formulas in Excel that perform calculations
  • Formula - equations that often contain functions and can calculate values; always start with an equal (=) sign
  • Calculated Value - a call value that is calculated by a formula.
  • Operator - designates a certain type of computation between cells and/or numbers.
  • Cell Reference - used in formulas to refer to a cell or range of cells.

Excel for Beginners - Lesson 3

Performing work efficiently is the main goal behind learning Excel. In this lesson, you'll learn how to use AutoSum, one of Excel's helpful commands that speeds up addition, as well as how to easily format cells with the Format Painter.

Excel is packed with features that are meant to support users. And, since users perform so many different jobs, there's no shortage of helpful features to choose from!

Features allow the user to make Excel work for them and increase efficiency over time.

Here's more about the terms you learn in this lesson:

  • Ribbon - the top interface in Excel.
  • Ribbon Tabs - groups of commands users can navigate to on the Ribbon.
  • Commands - features that allow users to delegate tasks to Excel.
  • AutoSum - an Excel command that automatically sums numbers.
  • Format Painter - Excel feature that allows you to transfer all of the formatting from one item to another (like copy + paste)

Excel for Beginners - Lesson 4

After completing the previous lessons, you'll have a good grasp of Excel basics. Now, it's time to put it all to work! In this lesson, you'll use all the skills you've learned so far to put together a restaurant check.

As you reach the end of Excel 100, there's one overlooked aspect of learning Excel that's important to talk about!

Excel University student Linda mentioned it when asked about the difference between taking one of our courses vs. Googling for simple answers: "I have had situations where I tried looking for a better formula. You can find it online, but you do not actually understand what you are doing because you are blindly following the formula."

The key lesson here is that in order to truly master Excel, you've got to understand the "why" and "how" behind the work.

As you complete the final project, you'll see how much more confident you are after gaining a deeper understanding of Excel basics!

What's Next?

After completing Excel 100, you're prepared and ready to take your Excel skills to the next level - and become the person who just knows everything about Excel!

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A CPE Pass is similar to a Campus Pass but it offers 124 CPE. It is designed to deliver practical CPE that will help you get your work done faster and includes all of our undergraduate and masters lessons, plus live Office Hours with Q&A. CPE is earned after each lesson.

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