“This is the quickest I have come across!!!! You are a big help.” Ron

Do you hate going home late?

Do you want to make your job easier?

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 here: Pivot Tables in Excel. We’ve also launched Working with Numbers.

We’ve also just created a video version of the tutorial which you can watch here.
Use this file to go try out what is shown in the video tutorial.

The vlookup is the most useful, yet most mis-understood function in Excel. Learning how to vlookup in Excel 2007/2010/2013 can be very useful 

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


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 – including Usain Bolt (the World Champion!). The runners 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.


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


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)


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).



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).

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.


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.



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 want to learn about Pivot Tables, you can do so via this website we created following user demand: http://pivottablesinexcel.com/

If you have problems with your vlookup click here – 13 common problems:


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454 Responses

  1. PJ says:

    I am still a bit confused. I am making an invoice that will autofill. I have the invoice on one sheet, clients in another sheet and the products on another sheet. I’ve gotten the products to autofill but not the clients. I would like to be able to enter an account number then their name, address, phone and email to auto populate. I’ve entered what I thought was correct but it either comes up with a n/a or it goes hunting for a another worksheet! What am I doing wrong.

    • Analyst says:

      Hi PJ

      Can you create a dummy file with one row with the incorrect result and send it through?


  2. Vibhuti says:

    Thank you very much. This really helped me to learn esp. with same sample sheet able to download and follow the steps.

  3. Shireen says:

    My workbook is fairly complex. I followed your step by step but I keep on getting N/A

    • Analyst says:

      Hi Shireen

      Are you doing a vlookup within a single sheet, two different sheets, or different workbooks?

      And have you tried the alternative method explained in Step 5 here? http://howtovlookupinexcel.com/vlookup-between-two-workbooks/

      Your workbook may have merged cells which could be causing the issue. If so, then the alternative method mentioned above should work.

      Let me know if not.


    • Amon says:


      You are getting that because you did not lock the table array. Press f4 to lock the table array H:J and try again.

      • Analyst says:

        Amon – you don’t have to lock the table array for the vlookup to work.

        There are several ways to do vlookups, and I describe a method which doesn’t require you to lock the array on this site.

        There could be several reasons why Shireen was getting #N/As -I’ve covered 5 different #N/A errors here: http://howtovlookupinexcel.com/13-common-problems-with-vlookups/

        So without seeing her file, you can’t possibly say for certain which #N/A error it is.

  4. Piyush says:

    I have done vlookup things.
    but when I send the same vlookup file to anyone,they are not able to see the correct name.They only have #NA in the excel sheet.
    Pl suggest.

    • Analyst says:

      Hi Piyush

      That’s a strange problem that I’ve never heard of!

      However, if the calculation in their Excel format is set to manual instead of automatic, that could be the cause of the issue.

      Let me know if that helps?


  5. MSVCP140 says:

    🙂 OK !

  6. shan says:

    This info was very helpful…. thanks

  7. kiranjith says:

    Really helpful.

  8. Ajit Kumar says:

    Sir i can’t apply the formula for matching the from one sheet to another..

  9. Sr Analyst says:

    This was very helpful and very easy to follow.

  10. cory says:

    I am setting up a vlookup to get me the closest value of a percentage or a dollar amount. Each time I run the system, I get an incorrect return. It gives me the last possible value in the column. I am assuming it is because there is not an exact value. I need to be able to calculate the dropoff of Mortgage insurance, and it drops off automatically after 78%. I want this to give me the payment number the LTV drops below 78%. It always gives me 360 payments. It should be giving me 114 or 115.

    • Analyst says:

      Hi Cory

      It sounds like your formula may be incorrect.

      But without seeing your file, I can’t tell.

      If you can send dummy data to the email address that you get this response from, I can assist further.


  11. Mdavis says:

    I have two sets of data and managed to use vlookup to return the correct information. However, when there is not a match on some items, which I expected, the formula returns #N/A. How can I get it to return a blank cell, or nothing?

  12. John says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial. Can you use VLOOKUP function and skip columns in the table array? My table array will be to the right of the lookup value, but I don’t need data from each column.

    • Analyst says:

      Hi John

      You certainly can.

      You just need to make sure your table array covers all the columns you want to look up, then select the relevant “col_index_num” or column index number.

      If you need more detail, let me know.


  13. Nav says:

    Been ignoring this function for long. This made it easy to understand and use it quickly. Thanks !

  14. kathy Johnson says:

    Thank you that was very helpful

  15. TJ says:

    Brilliant….now I finally understand how Vlook up works!

  16. Rizvan says:

    i liked the idea its very great but i have a question though, suppose in your given example i only had positions that means i only have numbers so if i type “1” in position column then name of runner and his respective prize should be shown can that be done?

    thanks for reading it

    • Analyst says:


      I’m not sure why you’d want to manually type in numbers – the point of it is to automate the process.

      But, yes, you’d just have to do a vlookup with the two columns you’ve described – position and runner.


  17. Vijay Kumar says:

    Igot the formula worked out in the first column in the sample demo filed you provided.
    But I don’t know how I can drag the formula in rest of the columns. I tried to copy & paste the formula but it did not work.
    Can you please guide me? Thank you so much,


    • Analyst says:


      To drag the formula down the column, all you need to do is hover over the cell until you see a black cross, then drag it down.


  18. Sam says:


    Thank you. Very simple and easy to understand. It just took 5 mins as you indicated 🙂

  19. Walter says:

    I have two worksheets with a matching ID code for our employees. One sheet tracks all our employees and there relevant data. The other simply tracks the hypos and what school they graduated from. If they had multiple schools, the ID code is listed for each school they graduated from. I have been able to use Vlookup to add the school to the master spreadsheet. The issue I have is that some of our employees got a BS from one school, Masters from another and a doctorate from another. Vlookup only gives you the last match. How can I get it to add all the schools listed?

    • Analyst says:

      Hi Walter

      I haven’t seen your spreadsheet, so I can only make assumptions here. If an employee has been to more than one school and the schools are listed in separate rows, then it won’t be possible to use the vlookup to return different results for each school.

      You may be better off doing a pivot table. If you send dummy data, I can have a look for you. But please only send info if it is NOT confidential and you have permission to do so.



  20. sandeep says:

    thank you sir i learnt much needed vlookup for my job

  21. Clarence Kalawa says:

    Great work and many thanks. This is the best tutorial have I come across on Vlookup and Pivots. Are there other Excel tutorials from you?

    • Analyst says:

      Hi Clarence

      Thanks for the feedback – it’s much appreciated.

      I don’t have any other tutorials, at present, but will let you know if and when I do create some additional ones.


  22. David says:

    Is there a free tool one can download to “annonymize” Excel data? I have a large spreadsheet but can not “annonymize” the data manually, as there is too much.

    Thank you.

    • Analyst says:

      Hi David

      I did a quick search on google but couldn’t find anything quick and simple.

      What’s the issue you have? If you send a copy of the sheet with two rows and dummy data, ensuring you remove anything confidential, I can have a look.


      • David says:

        I ended up using this to anonymize the data:


        It still only partially worked for what I needed. I also had a bunch of names I needed to change, so I used search and replace to change much of the names and between that worked for me.

        My question is actually not a vLookup question, but a pivot table question. But I asked you as I see you frequently tell people to anonymize the data. Thanks for your help!

        • Analyst says:

          Yes, I came across that site as well, but the macro was written for Excel 2003 and earlier versions, and they said it doesn’t work properly for later versions. I thought you may be using Excel 2007 or 2010, as 2003 is quite old now.

          What’s the question you have about pivot tables?

  23. ALKA SHARMA says:

    how to use vlookup function in excel window 2007. i want to compare tally export data & excel sheet data to
    compare. how to use it

  24. Rick says:

    Thanks for the vLookup and Pivot tables step and process. I’ll put this into good use :). Do you have any materials on Macros?

    Thanks again!

  25. Kate says:

    Hi. I am looking for help with a formula in Excel. I have a spreadsheet with many worksheets. Each worksheet contains a document copied into it with tables, sentences, and paragraphs. I have a list for words and numbers in the first worksheet that I need to find in all the others. I am using “IF(ISERROR(VLOOKUP($E16,’148N’!$B$7:$E$5000,1,FALSE)),””,”Yes”) but it is only finding the word at E16 if it is NOT in a sentence and only if it is in Column B (it will not search Column C in tab #148N for that same word. Can you assist? Is vlookup the correct formula for this situation?

    • Analyst says:

      Hi Kate

      Apologies for the delay in responding.

      From what you’ve described, the formula does not appear to be correct.

      For example, you don’t need a dollar sign after the bracket after the word “vlookup” in the formula.

      Also, is the tab you’re looking up the data from called “148N”? That’s a very unusual name for a tab. If it’s not called that, then that’s another thing that you’d need to correct with the formula.

      To give you the correct formula, I’d need to be able to see the spreadsheet, as I don’t know the range of data that you’re looking up.

      However, you’d need to create dummy data, if the data is confidential – if you can create dummy data for, say, 5 rows, I can give you a steer.


  26. Amit Vyas says:


  27. Wendy Rosado says:

    This was so easy and helpful. Now I am using vlook ups for massive spreadsheets that I maintain at my job. Thank you so much!

    Any instructions for “dummies” on pivot tables?

  28. Pinki Sharma says:

    Many Thanks

  29. L.Y. says:

    This is the best explanation out there and the fact that you go into all the possible errors is so helpful. I have been trying to create this formula all day and your explanation is the only one I could understand and worked for me.

    Thank you very much!

    • Analyst says:

      That’s great LY! Glad the site helped!

      And thank you for your kind words. If you have any queries, let me know.


  30. Amna says:

    Vlook-up seemed like rocket science to me after I went through tutorials/videos on youtube! BUT you’ve really done a great job of explaining it! I’ve finally learned to use this function!Thanks a bunch!

  31. Kathy says:

    Excellent tutorial. Thanks soooo much for your help. Its much appreciated 🙂

  32. Hem N. Pradhan says:

    This was a very simple and easy method to follow. Thanks a lot!

  33. Benson says:

    Very clear instructions

  34. vin says:

    Thanks it works

  35. GuyWithAJob says:

    INCREDIBLY helpful! Words can’t express my gratitude that you took the time to put this together for everyone. Had never done a Vlookup in my life (but heard horror stories about them) – I had finished what I needed to do in 10 minutes start to finish thanks to this guideline. You have my complete appreciation.

    Thank you for taking your time to put this together.

  36. Justine says:

    can we do a vlookup on names instead of numbers.
    like i have a list of names in one column and some numbers in another. I need to get the numbers to another table using the name as reference.

    • Analyst says:

      Yes, you can. But using names is less reliable. You’ll need to make sure that the names match exactly for the vlookups to work.

  37. Analyst says:

    You’re welcome.

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