Author: Oscar Cronquist Article last updated on January 31, 2019

Question: How do I divide values equally into groups (3 lists or less)?

This post shows you two different approaches, an array formula, and a User Defined Function. You will find the UDF later in this post.

The above picture shows you values in column A and they are equally split across 9 columns, column D to M.

Formula in D5:


Now copy cell D5 and paste to cells below and to the right.

Explaining formula in cell D5

Step - 1 Keep track of lists

The COLUMNS function works just like the ROWS function except it counts columns instead of rows in a cell reference.

Cell COLUMNS function Result
D5 COLUMNS($A$1:A1) 1
E5 COLUMNS($A$1:A2) 2
F5 COLUMNS($A$1:A3) 3

Cell E2 contains the number of lists to put the values into.




and returns TRUE. This makes the formula return blank cells when the number of lists are greater than the value in cell E2.

Step 2 - Return blanks if all lists are populated

The IF function lets you specify a value if the logical expression returns TRUE (argument 2) and another value if FALSE (argument 3).




and returns


Step 3 - Return number based on an expanding cell reference

The ROWS function returns the number of rows in a cell reference, this cell ref is special. It expands as the formula is copied to cells below.


returns 1.

Cell ROWS function Result
B3 ROWS($A$1:A1) 1
B4 ROWS($A$1:A2) 2
B5 ROWS($A$1:A3) 3

Step 4 - Multiply with cell E2



1*9 equals 9.

Step 5 - Subtract $E$2 with COLUMNS



9-1 equals 8

Step 6 - Calculate row number



9-8 equals 1.

Step 6 - Get value based on row number

The INDEX function returns a value in cell range based on a row and column number. This is a single column cell ref so the column number is not neccessary in this case.




and returns "YM" in cell D5.

User defined function

You decide how many groups you want by selecting a cell range with as many columns as you want groups and then enter the UDF. It is designed to group values depending on how many columns you have selected before entering it.

The animated picture above shows you a cell range with 5 columns.

This post shows you how to categorize values into worksheets:

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How to enter an array formula

  1. Select cell range C2:G11
  2. Paste above array formula to your formula bar
  3. Press and hold CTRL and SHIFT keys simultaneously
  4. Press Enter once

The formula in the formula bar now looks like this: {=GroupValues(A2:A24)}
Don't enter these curly parentheses yourself, they appear automatically if you did the above steps correctly.

Recommended articles

A beginners guide to Excel array formulas
Array formulas allows you to do advanced calculations not possible with regular formulas.

VBA code

Function GroupValues(rng As Range)
Dim result As Variant
c = Application.Caller.Columns.Count
r = Application.Caller.Rows.Count
ReDim result(1 To r, 1 To c)
i = 1
For ro = 1 To r
    For co = 1 To c
        If rng.Cells(i) <> "" Then
            result(ro, co) = rng.Cells(i)
            result(ro, co) = ""
        End If
        i = i + 1
    Next co
Next ro
GroupValues = result
End Function

How do I copy the code to my workbook?

  1. Open VB editor (Alt+F11)
  2. Insert a module to your workbook
  3. Paste code to code module
  4. Go back to Excel
Note, make sure you save your workbook as a *.xlsm file or your workbook will lose all your vba code next time you close it.

Get the Excel file