Mastering the VLOOKUP Formula in Excel: Beginner’s Guide Part-1

VLOOKUP Formula in Excel

The VLOOKUP formula in Excel is a cornerstone of data analysis. It simplifies the process of finding specific information within your spreadsheets, saving you time and effort. This comprehensive guide delves into everything you need to know about VLOOKUP, from its basic structure to advanced applications.

Understanding VLOOKUP Formula in Excel: A Vertical Lookup Powerhouse

VLOOKUP stands for “Vertical Lookup.” It searches for a value in a designated column (usually the leftmost one) of a table and returns a corresponding value from a different column in the same row. Imagine a phonebook – VLOOKUP can find a person’s phone number if you know their name (lookup value) and both names and numbers reside in the same table.

Breaking Down the VLOOKUP Formula In Excel

The VLOOKUP formula in Excel consists of four arguments:

  • Lookup_value: The value you want to find within the table. This can be a cell reference (e.g., A2) or directly entered text (“Apple”)

Sample Data Table :-

Lookup value in this case to find the first name will be E5. This is the value which Excel is going to look for. The value here is Employee ID.

  • Table_array: The range of cells containing the table data you’ll search through. Ensure your lookup value column is the leftmost one in this range.

Sample Data Table :-

Table Array in this case to find the first name will be A5:B17. This means that Excel will look for the Employee ID in the cells ranging from A5:B17.

  • Col_index_num: The column number within the table_array that holds the data you want to retried. Count columns from left to right, starting with 1 for the first column.

Sample Data Table :-

In this case column_index_num will be 2 in order to receive the First Name as the answer. This means Excel will look for the value in the second column of the selected tabble_array (Here A5:B17).

  • Range_lookup (Optional): Determines how precise the match should be. Use TRUE (or 1) for an exact match and FALSE (or 0) for an approximate match (only works for numbers).

Sample Data Table :-

Here the range_lookup will be False or 1 because we want the perfect match.

Constructing Your First VLOOKUP Formula In Excel

Now We Will Put This Whole Formula Together

The final formula in order to find first name will be : =VLOOKUP(E5,A5:B17,2,FALSE). This formula will fetch the final answer which will be Brad. Let’s Implement and see answer.


  • We’re looking for the Employee ID which is 990678 (lookup_value).
  • The table containing Employee First Name is A5:B17 (table_array).
  • We want the First Name, which is in the second column (col_index_num = 2).
  • We need an exact match (range_lookup = FALSE).

Entering and Using the Formula

  1. Select cell D2, where you want the price to appear.
  2. Type =VLOOKUP(“ABC123”, A1:C10, 3, FALSE) and press Enter.
  3. If the code exists, the price will be displayed in D2. If not, an error message will appear.

Tips and Tricks for Mastery in VLOOKUP Formula In Excel

  • Absolute vs. Relative References: By default, VLOOKUP uses relative cell references. To ensure the formula works when copied across rows or columns, use absolute references ($A$1 instead of A1).
  • Error Handling: VLOOKUP can return errors like #N/A (value not found). Use the IFERROR function to display a custom message instead of the error code.
  • Wildcards: Utilize asterisks (*) as wildcards for partial matches. For example, VLOOKUP(“*apple*”, A1:B10, 2, FALSE) will find all products containing “apple” in their names.

Advanced VLOOKUP Applications

VLOOKUP’s capabilities extend beyond basic lookups. Here are some advanced scenarios:

  • Lookup from Another Sheet: Reference a table on a different sheet by including the sheet name within single quotes (e.g., VLOOKUP(A2, ‘Sheet2’!A1:C10, 2, TRUE)).
  • Multi-Row Criteria: Combine VLOOKUP with other functions like INDEX and MATCH to perform complex lookups based on multiple criteria.

Beyond VLOOKUP: Exploring Alternatives

While VLOOKUP is powerful, it has limitations. Consider these alternatives for specific situations:

  • INDEX MATCH Combination: Offers more flexibility for complex lookups with multiple criteria.
  • XLOOKUP (Excel 365): A newer function with simpler syntax and built-in wildcard support (not available in older Excel versions).

Conclusion: VLOOKUP – Your Gateway to Efficient Data Retrieval

The VLOOKUP formula in Excel is an essential tool for anyone working with data. Mastering its basic structure and exploring advanced applications will significantly enhance your spreadsheet operations. Remember, practice makes perfect! Experiment with different scenarios and don’t hesitate to consult online resources for further learning. With this guide and a little practice, you’ll be wielding VLOOKUP formula in Excel like a pro in no time.

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