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Excel Vlookup formula-function explained

The Excel Vlookup formula is perhaps the most used formula used when looking up data set up in a table.

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SEE ALSO: Vlookup Across Worksheets | 5 Condition Vlookup | 4 Condition Vlookup | 3 Condition Vlookup | 2 Condition Vlookup | How to stop the #N/A! error | Lookup Any Occurrence in Any Table Column || Hlookup Formula || Left Lookup in Excel || Excel Lookup Functions | Multi-Table Lookup

Excel VLOOKUP Formula Explained OR Show Me Visually

Perhaps one of Excels most commonly needed Functions is the VLOOKUP. It is also possibly the function that most people have problems understanding.  The Excel VLOOKUP function is used to look for specified data in the first column of a table of data. Once found it will return a result, on the same row, a specified number of columns from the first column. The syntax for VLOOKUP is:


It is used in the following manner:


Note the use of False as the optional range_lookup Argument. This tells the VLOOKUP to find an exact match and is most often needed when looking for a text match. If this is omitted, or True, you will often get unwanted results when searching for text that is in an unsorted column of data. This means that when True is used, or the range_lookup Argument is omitted, your data should be sorted (by the first column) in ascending order.

The use of True, or range_lookup Argument is omitted, is most often used when looking at numeric data that resides in the first column of your table of data.

  A B C
1 Amount  Name Age
2 $256.95 Bill 56
3 $125.63 Joe 22
4 $25.66 Mary 59
5 $548.00 Dave 21
6 $489.32 Frank 48
7 $500.25 Sue 19
8 $368.59 Hillary 15
9 $901.56 Kate 25
10 $99.95 Aleisha 33

If we were to use:


on the above data, we would get a result of "Mary" and NOT "Hillary" as we have omitted the range_lookup Argument AND our data is not sorted by Amount. This is because VLOOKUP looks in Column A, Starting from A1, and as soon as it encounters the amount $548.00 it drops back to the cell above because $548.00 is greater than the lookup_value of 368.59

If we sorted our data by Amount we would get the desired result. We could also get the desired result by using:


The use of False as the range_lookup Argument forces VLOOKUP to search all values and only stop when it finds an exact match. If an exact match does not exist we get the #N/A! error.

The method of sorting is best as a VLOOKUP that searches in a sorted range is MUCH faster. The effect of this can be significant if the table is large and/or you have many VLOOKUP functions.

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