Pick More Than One Name At Random From A List

Posted on 2014-04-14
Last Modified: 2014-04-14
Hello Experts

I am trying to pick more than one name from a list of names in one column.  The selection needs to be random (or as near to random as Excel functions can be), and there can be no duplication of the selected names.  This isn't a lottery or anything with prizes, whereby somebody might later argue about how random the selection was, it is to pick out a couple of employee names for random weekly alcohol testing.  The proper list will comprise about 40 names.

I have created a spreadsheet with two sheets containing different formulae which I think will work, but I need somebody to check and make sure that I have got it right or maybe suggest an alternative approach.

The sheet named DATA contains column headers in row 1.  A list of names occupies  cells A2:A21.
Cells B2:B21 contain the =RAND() function to create a random number.
Cells C2:C5 are where 4 randomly selected names should be placed.
The formula in C2 is:  =INDEX($A$2:$A$21,RANK(B2,$B$2:$B$21))
C3:  =INDEX($A$2:$A$21,RANK(B3,$B$2:$B$21))
C4:  =INDEX($A$2:$A$21,RANK(B4,$B$2:$B$21))
C5:  =INDEX($A$2:$A$21,RANK(B5,$B$2:$B$21))

As I understood it, the RANK function more or less sorts the random numbers in column B into ascending order, picking the top 4 numbers ? and selects the names from column A that lie alongside each of those 4 numbers.

Is that correct?
Have I used the formulae correctly?

The sheet named TEST uses a formula that I found online, but I don't fully understand how it works.  From what I can understand it looks like the same name could be picked twice.

The spreadsheet will be run on two computers, one with Office 2003 and the other with Office 2010, hence the 97-2003 XLS format.

I would have considered using an Access Database, but it's years since I even tried to create anything in Access and I think there are compatibility issues between 2003 and later versions of Access.

Could somebody check out what I have and make suggestions.


Question by:BillDL
LVL 35

Accepted Solution

Kimputer earned 500 total points
ID: 39998656
The most important thing is that Column B contains random numbers. Since that's true in your file, you can comfortably use RANK to select 4 people (though hardcore  mathematicians might have problems with that, but in example it's totally sufficient).
To double check, I opened the file 10 times, and JLO was selected twice, as was Forrest Gump. What more could you wish for?
LVL 38

Author Comment

ID: 39998682
Thank you for that Kimputer.  I tried to count how many times one of the names came up if I pressed F9 repeatedly 208 times, the idea being that it would be the equivalent of one random selection per week for 4 years that I could average out and get an idea how random it really was.  I lost count after about 7 months ;-)

As long as you're happy with the formulae, then that's good enough for me, but I might have to get my IT department (and HR) to verify it for HR to agree though.  I just wanted to get a working example in place to present to them if needed.

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