Author: Oscar Cronquist Article last updated on November 16, 2018

Question: How do I rank text cell values uniquely? If text values were sorted alphabetically from A to Z, the first text value would rank 1 and so on... Duplicate text values rank uniquely.


Formula in cell C3:


Copy cell C3 and paste to cells below as far as needed.

How does this formula work?

Let us start with cell C3.


Step 1 - Calculate rank

The COUNTIF function is an incredibly versatile function, in this case, instead of counting values based on a condition we simply check if a value is smaller or larger than the others.

Remember, we are using text values so the function returns a rank number based on the position if the list were sorted alphabetically.



=COUNTIF({DD, AA, AA, BB, AA, DD, EE, AA, BB, EE, CC, EE}, "<"&DD)

and returns 7. 7 values are sorted before DD, as if they were sorted from A to Z.

The problem is that value DD has a duplicate and we need to make sure that the duplicate doesn't get the same number as the first instance.

Step 2 - Count current value and prior instances of current value




and returns 1.

Note that the cell reference $B$3:B3 expands as we copy the cell to cells below.

Step 3 - Add values



7 + 1 and returns 8 in cell C3.

Final notes

Select B3 and use "evaluate formula" to see how the next cell calculates rank.  Press with left mouse button on "Evaluate" button and excel calculates cell formula step by step.

Get *.xlsx file

Text values uniquely ranked.xlsx