• Do you want to use Excel more efficiently?

    Do you want to be able to go home earlier?

    If you answered yes to either of these questions, then read on.

    But before we proceed, many of you have been asking for a step by step tutorial on Pivot Tables, which is now ready here: Pivot Tables in Excel. We’ve also just launched Working with Numbers.

    The vlookup is the most useful, yet most mis-understood function in Excel. 

    This is a step by step vlookup tutorial (only 7 steps) suitable for beginners. It’s made more interesting by including Usain Bolt in the data, as it’s the quickest (and simplest) way to do a vlookup!! This method works in Excel 2003, Excel 2007, Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 (you just need to find the fx button above column B as demonstrated in the example below).

    LEARN HOW TO USE THE VLOOKUP FUNCTION IN EXCEL AND SAVE YOURSELF HOURS WITH ANALYSIS!!

    vlookups are usually done between different spreadsheets, but to make it easier to show how they work, I’ve put the data on to one spreadsheet (see image below).

    The tables in the spreadsheet have some of the most famous 100m runners in the world. They are numbered from 1 to 10 in column B (the numbers are for illustrative purposes only).

    I’ve put the names of the runners / athletes in column C.

    IMPORTANT: You should note that the table on the LEFT HAND SIDE is set in ASCENDING NUMERCIAL order ie numbers 1 to 10.

    However, the table on the RIGHT HAND SIDE is arranged in ALPHABETICAL order of the names of the athletes. So the numbers in that table DO NOT go from 1 to 10 in ascending order.

    We’ll use the vlookup function to get the ‘Prize Money’ each athlete has won in column J in the second table into column D in the first table.

     

    Two tables. Column B has the position of various runners. Column C has their names. Col. D is for their Prize money which we’ll look up from col. J, using col. H, which also has the runners positions (1-10)If you want to actually test out the instructions below with exactly the same data in Excel, then we have included a link to the file with the data here –

    vlookup specimen file – Usain Bolt, etc.

    STEP 1

    First, click into cell D2 – as this is where we want the first vlookup result to appear.

    STEP 2

    Click on the ‘fx’ button above column B – many people start by typing “=vlookup…” but you don’t have to! Clicking the “fx” button is much quicker!

    (you will see the ‘Insert Function’ table pop up – screenshot below)

     

    A screenshot showing the “insert function” window and the vlookup function highlighted as one of the “most recently used” functions.

     

    From this window, we will select the vlookup function, as it is one of the ‘most recently used’ functions in the category here.

     

    If the vlookup function isn’t one of the ‘most recently used’ functions, then change the “Or Select a Category” field to ‘All, then scroll to the bottom, where you will see the word ‘vlookup’ and click on it.

     

    A screenshot showing the “insert function” window with all functions assorted in alphabetical order.

     

    A screenshot showing the “insert function” window with all functions but the vlookup function highlighted at the bottom

     

    Click ‘ok’ and the function arguments window will pop up. This table will show the Syntax (a fancy word for the format of the formula) and it will display the different parts of the syntax ie

     

    VLOOKUP(lookup_value,table_array,col_index_num,range_lookup)

    STEP 3

    Here, you should click into cell ‘B2’ because that’s the first number or reference for which you want to lookup a value. The ‘look up value’ is the corresponding value we want to find in the first column of the second table – so we want to find out what ‘Prize Money’ the runner in position 1 got in the table that spans columns H to J.

     

    A screenshot showing the “function arguments” window and the lookup value populated with cell B2 (our first vlookup value).

     

    STEP 4

    Now click in the next field, the ‘table array’ field (the table array consists of two or more columns of data and the first column in the table array – in this case col. H – has the corresponding numbers that the ‘lookup value is looking at ie the runner positions in this case).

    STEP 5
    After clicking in the ‘table array’ field, you then need to highlight the columns that that you want to look up data from; so here, we will highlight columns H to J, because our lookup value column starts from column H in the second table, and the Prize Money which we want to check is in col. J

    An alternative way to populate the “Table_array” field is to highlight the range of data you’re looking up, starting with your first unique value – in this case cell H2. So you’d highlight cells H2 to J11, because J11 is the last cell in the range. You’d then need to FIX this table array by putting dollar signs in before the H, before the 2, before the J and before the 11, so your formula at the end looks like this: =VLOOKUP(B2,$H$2:$J$11,3,FALSE). If you’re in the table array field and you press F4, then Excel will do this automatically for you. This is useful to know if the spreadsheet doesn’t allow you to highlight cells H to J because some cells are merged or you’re getting an invalid error. But for now, just leave it, ensure, you’re fields look the same as those in the screenshot above then proceed to Step 6, the second last step.

     

    A screenshot showing the “function arguments” window, the lookup value populated with cell B2 (our first vlookup value) and the data for the table array – columns H to J.

     

    STEP 6
    When you highlight the columns, you should note that column J is the 3rd column from column H. We then move onto the next step, Col_index_num, which is the column Index number. Click in that field and type the number 3) – this is because column J is three columns away from column H.

     

    A screenshot showing the “function arguments” window, the lookup value with cell B2, the data for the table array – columns H to J and the column index number – 3.

     

    STEP 7

    Now, for the last bit, simply click in the ‘range lookup’ field and type in the word false. You should always type in the word false here, because we want the vlookup to return an exact match for what we‘re looking for, and if it doesn’t then we want it to return the word false.

     

    A screenshot showing the “function arguments” window, the lookup value with cell B2, the data for the table array – columns H to J, the column index number – 3 and the range lookup field populated with the word “false”, which it should always be.

     

    Now click ‘Ok’, and like magic, you will notice that the vlookup has returned the figure of $1,000,000 against Usain Bolt’s name in the first table. If you look at the second table, the figure of $1,000,000 is also against Usain Bolt’s name, so we know the vlookup has worked. And that’s how you string together the vlookup formula in excel.

     

    Now all you have to do is drag down the formula, so that the cells below cell D2 populate, and you save yourself the hassle of manually finding the corresponding Prize Money value for each and every athlete in the first table. In a work scenario, if you had hundreds of rows of data, this would literally save you hours of work!

     

    IMPORTANT point to note – the numbers in the “lookup value” column MUST precede the data you’re looking up! The same is true for the table that you are looking up data from (you must ALWAYS move from the left to the right, when using vlookups!)

    Congratulations on finishing the tutorial! If you want to try out a vlookup between two separate workbooks, you can do so here: http://howtovlookupinexcel.com/vlookup-between-two-workbooks

    If you have problems with your vlookup click here – 10 common problems:

     

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    337 Responses

    1. ravi rathore says:

      very helpfull thanx…

    2. nathan says:

      This is a good way to learn, thank you so much.

    3. Kulasekararaja says:

      Hello Team,

      Thank you for the brief explanation on this topic. I have an excel where i would like to use Vlookup formula in a different way. Please look if you can help me.

      Emp-ID Salary-Jan Salary-Feb Salary-Mar Salary-Apr
      111 10 20 30 40
      222 10 20 30 40
      333 10 20 30 40
      444 10 20 30 40

      I have to get the value here

      Emp-ID Salary-Apr
      444
      222

      I dont wan’t to use vlookup formula this way eg.=vlookup(A2,TABLEName,Indexname,false), since on my original sheet i don’t know where is my coloumn located, insted of using the column index name is there a way i can match the value and get the data?

      • Analyst says:

        Hi

        Sorry, but it will be really difficult to answer your question without seeing your sheet. You say that on your original sheet, you “don’t know where your column is located.” I can’t really answer the question, as the details are too vague. But, assuming your info isn’t confidential, I can look at the file to understand the problem further.

    4. sam says:

      Thank you. I used to use this formula daily years ago and this was a great refresher! Saved me lots of time.

    5. KK says:

      Thanks a Lot
      It was Easy,quick
      & Helpful

    6. Mahipal Singh says:

      I am glad, it was great help for me. My sincere thanks

    7. paramjeet says:

      can we take 3 columns in value

      • Analyst says:

        I assume you mean the sum of three columns? If so, yes, but I’d recommend that you simply insert a column which is the sum of the three columns that you want then look up that column.

    8. Pankaj says:

      Great. I always found vlookup very difficult and always used to forget it. Now this write up has fixed it. fx function idea and reason to put false is superb.

    9. Neetu Kaur Sohal says:

      simpleeeee Superb…

    10. DIP says:

      OOHHOO……….. THANK U DEAR…. (Y) :)

    11. Ms. Lang says:

      Wow. That was easy. You just saved me a 2 hour meeting with my boss to “learn” this I got it IN MINUTES!!!!!
      Thank you!

    12. Raghu says:

      Execellent ThankYou.

    13. DILEEP says:

      THANK U SO MUCH BRO I LEARNED IT QUICKLY WITHIN A MINUTE

    14. MEVADA ANKIT says:

      THANK YOU SO MUCH…

    15. Deepak Luthra says:

      Thanks a ton..its really very helpful..

    16. Bistek says:

      Very clear guidelines. Able to understand and learn the principle. :)

    17. Terry says:

      Good, clear instructions. I’ve always found Vlookup a bit confusing but this has helped greatly…Thank you

    18. mahakathir says:

      it is very useful

    19. Vik says:

      Explained so perfectly! Even preempting questions someone may have along the way. Great tutorial! Many Thanks…

    20. vinoth says:

      clean steps..thanq u


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