VLOOKUP

Explanation

VLOOKUP is probably the most popular function in Excel, and one of the most helpful functions for everyday use.

VLOOKUP helps us lookup a value in table, and return a corresponding value.

A good example for VLOOKUP in real life is our “Contacts” app on the phone:

We lookup for a friend’s name, and the app returns its number. This is exactly what VLOOKUP does!

Syntax

=VLOOKUP(lookup_value,table_array,col_index_num,[range_lookup]

  • lookup_value – what we are looking for – this could be a text, number, or a single cell reference
  • table_array – the range in which we will lookup for our value and its corresponding result. Please note that the range must start from the column which contains the value, and should contain the column in which we have our result.
  • col_index_num – What is the column number from which we want to return the result? The number should be relative to the first column in the selected range in table_array.
  • [range_lookup] – Which range lookup method should be used. 0 is the default, so you should always type 0 (or FALSE), which means “Exact Match” – Go to the exact match to the value I’m looking for. 1 stands for “Approximate match”, and it should not be used on most cases so we’ll skip it for now.

Here’s a quick example – let’s try to find out the age of the person with ID number #646:

  • lookup_value –  we typed 646. We could as well reference a cell containing the number 646.
  • table_array – This is where we perform our lookup. Our table starts at column B, as this is the column which contains our ID number. We can see that our table contains the Age column as well, as we would like to return the Age from it.
  • col_index_num – we typed 2, as column C’s relative position is 2, if we consider that our table starts at column B.
  • [range_lookup] – We are looking for an exact match, hence we type 0.

So what happens here is that the function goes to the table in range B1:C5, looks up in column B for the value 646, goes to the 2nd column in that table (Column C), and returns the corresponding value from it – 72.

Please note that if we tried to return the Name column instead of Age column, we would not be able to do so with VLOOKUP unless we changed the position of columns. The reason for that is because column A is before Column B, which must be the first column in table_array as it contains the ID number. In such case, it is recommended to use INDEX MATCH instead.

Practice VLOOKUP

So here’s a small exercise that will show you how VLOOKUP is used: