How to trace precedents in Excel

In such problems, Excel provides us with a very simple way which helps us to review the interdependencies of cells. In this tutorial, we’ll learn about this special feature of Excel which is called trace precedents and dependents by following the steps mentioned below. Let’s consider this dataset which represents the details of the marks obtained by a student and the final status of the exam as well.

When you have to work on a spreadsheet which is set up by someone else or you prepared a very long time ago and now you need to update the formulas and functions in that file. Then the most annoying problem you’ll face will be about how the calculations will be affected if you add or delete any new data. You might also want to trace how some particular formulas are getting the values from different cells.

Step 1 – Locate the Formulas Tab in the list of main tabs

– As discussed above, this feature is related to the calculations and formulas, therefore, it is rightly placed under the Formulas tab. Let’s locate the Formulas tab first.

Step 2 – Locate trace precedents in Formula Auditing

– In the Formulas tab go to the Formula Auditing group.
– Then locate the Trace Precedents option as shown above.

Step 3 – Trace Precedents of cells having formulas

– Once you have located the button, it’s now time to get to the real action. So, select a cell which has formulas. If you select multiple cells, then it will show you the precedents of only the first cell.
– Click on the Trace Precedents button in the Formula Auditing group of Formulas tab.
– All precedents will be highlighted and an arrow will appear showing you how the calculation was done. You can do this for as many cells as you wish as shown above.

If the result is calculated using many cells which are all adjacent then you will see a blue rectangle appearing around those cells and a blue arrow will also appear. The dot of the arrow shows the origin or precedents and arrow head points towards the result.

Step 4 – Remove the arrows

– Once you have analyzed all the precedents, you can remove the arrows by using the Remove Arrows option on the same Formula Auditing group.

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