How to use Exponents in Excel in 2 Easy Ways

Exponents are a value that is applied to a number to determine how many times to multiply against itself.

42 for example means 4 x 4 = which would equal 16

54 means 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 which would be 625

And so on.

It is a simple but powerful mathematical method that can be achieved in Excel in a few different ways. Outside of pure formatting, there are two key approaches that we can take to use Exponents.

In this simple guide, we are going to run through how to use Exponents in Excel. We will cover:

  • Excel formatting of Exponents
  • Using Exponents with POWER
  • Using Exponents with ^

Before we move onto the formulas itself, let’s quickly discuss formatting.

Excel formatting of Exponents

There is also another approach worth discussing – and that is the formatting itself of Exponents. To make the second number appear in the way it has above, small and sitting slightly higher, we need to use superscript formatting. We have a separate guide on how to achieve this here.

Now that we have covered off the basics of how to make visual Exponents, let’s start our calculations by covering the POWER function.

Using Exponents in Excel with POWER

The first approach is a nice simple one, and involves using the built in POWER formula in Excel. The syntax is as follows:

=POWER(number, power)

Using our first example of 42, this would mean typing in =POWER(4,2). Let’s look at a few examples in Excel itself and the outputs generated:

Exponents in Excel

As we can see, this formula is super simple and just involves typing in two numbers. We can also accomplish this by referencing cells with each of the two numbers.

Next up, we have a formula that is arguably even easier.

Using Exponents in Excel using the ^ symbol

This approach is more of a basic mathematical formula rather than using a built in function like POWER. In this example we are going to use the ^ symbol, also known as a caret, to perform an exponent calculation.

Typically, a formula for this would appear as follows:


Thats it! So again using our first example, this would look like =4^2

Going back to the same sample data we used earlier with POWER, the values and outputs would appear as follows:

Exponents in Excel

As we can see in the above, the outputs are exactly the same (obviously), while the formulas are just as simple, if not a little cleaner. One potential benefit of using ^ instead of POWER would be if it was to form part of a much larger formula in Excel. Sometimes it can be a bit more readable if we stay consistent with ^, *, / and so on rather than throw in functions at the same time. That being said it really just does come down to personal preference depending on the use case!

This sums up our short and simple guide on how to use Exponents in Excel taking two different approaches. For more handy guides on working with Excel, be sure to check out our Excel Tips page.

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