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Calculating the Interval between Occurrences

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Calculating the Interval between Occurrences.

Roger asked if there was a way to calculate the interval between occurrences of values in a list. For instance, he has several thousand numbers in column A. Looking at the value in cell A351, the last time that value occurred in the list was in cell A246. He would like a formula that could be placed in cell B351 and return 105, the difference between 351 and 246.

This approach is difficult to implement in Excel because Excel is not very good at searching backwards—up a column. If the premise could be reversed, then the task becomes much simpler. For instance, if a formula in cell B246 could return the value 105, indicating the interval until the next occurrence of the value in cell A246, instead of calculating the last occurrence. The following formula calculates the next occurrence of the value in cell A1:


Place this formula in cell B1 and copy it down however many cells are necessary. If the value in column A does not occur again in the column, then the formula returns the #N/A error. If you would rather have the formula return 0, then the following works:


If you absolutely must count upwards (find the previous occurrence instead of the next occurrence), then the easiest way to do it is with a user-defined function. The following function, RowInterval, will look backward through a range you specify and return the desired interval:

Function RowInterval(TestCell As Range, LookHere As Range) As Long
    Dim varValue As Variant
    Dim lngRow As Long

    varValue = TestCell.Value
    'Check for occurrences of the test value in the search range
    If WorksheetFunction.CountIf(LookHere, varValue) > 0 Then
        With LookHere
            'Get the last row of the search range
            lngRow = .Row + .Rows.Count - 1
            'Start with the last cell in the search range and work up
            Do Until .Item(lngRow, 1).Value = varValue
                lngRow = lngRow - 1
        End With
        'Subtract the number of the row containing the found occurrence
        'from the number of the row containing the test value
        RowInterval = TestCell.Row - lngRow
    End If
End Function

In order to use the function, you would put the following formula in cell B2, and then copy the formula down the number of desired cells:


ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2338) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Calculating the Interval between Occurrences.

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Comments for this tip:

Michael (Micky) Avidan    06 Dec 2015, 10:09
To my opinion (if I manage to correctly understand the task) the suggested "Array Formula" (No helper column) in the attached linked picture should do.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2016)
Fred Burg    05 Dec 2015, 10:28
Hi Allen,

It's not totally clear what Roger needs. Can the contents of A246 and A351 change?

For example, suppose A351 contains the word "Class" and the last time that occurred was in A246 and neither cell would change.

If that's the case, this is easy. If A351 can change to, for example, "Rooms" and Roger now wants to know when that last occurred, that is harder.

Going back to my first scenario (which I actually use), add a hidden column B with a formula such as
and fill down.

Then to get the last occurrence of a row with "Class" above the current row - let's say above A351, just use

and the number of rows between the 2 occurrences (the current row and the previous row with "Class") is just
=Row() - max(B$1,B350)

The alternative to allow for this to be more dynamic (the values in A246 and A351 can change) would take a little more work.


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