Sunday, October 18, 2020

Writing Your First Vlookup

What is a Vlookup?

A Vlookup is a function allow a user to pull in a result from a specified column of a data table based on search value.

Why Should I learn about Vlookup's?

Vlookup's are one of the most commonly used excel formulas. Whether you're just starting your career or are a seasoned professional, chances are having an understanding of the vlookup will be crucial for your day to day excel work. It can be the difference of spending hours manually finding values in a spreadsheet vs seconds of writing a formula and having excel do the work for you. Also, Vlookup's are one of the simplest formulas to learn and apply in practice. Learning the basics of writing the Vlookup formula will help build a foundation in which you can apply to more advanced formulas. Exciting stuff, right!?

Enough of the boring stuff, how do we use a Vlookup?

To use a VLookup we'll need to first identify the components of the formula, also known as the arguments. The Vlookup Formula is written the following.

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

The formula consists of 4 arguments (separated by commas), which can be broken down as:

  1. Lookup Value
    The value we are looking up. This value should exist in the first column of the to be searched data table
  2. Table_Array
    The range containing the data
  3. Col_index_num
    The column number we would like to return as the result
  4. Range_lookup (optional)
    Either true or false. Tells excel to bring in the first closest match (True) or to find an exact match (False). In most situations this should be false but excel will default to true by default.
To get a better idea of how the formula works, let's revisit the image at the header of the post. The data contains a list of US States with their Capital City and population count.

For example, if we would like to lookup the capital city of California the VLookup formula would consist of the following

  1. Lookup Value
  2. "California", or cell reference F1 which contains the value California
  3. Table_Array
  4. The relevant data in our workbook starts at cell A2 and ends C7. For table_array we will use A2:C7
  5. Col_index_num
  6. Capital is the second column in our data table. 2 will be our Col_index_num
  7. Col_index_num
  8. We would like to find an exact match of our lookup value. False will be our range_lookup

This formula will return "Sacramento" 

Having trouble getting your VLookup to work. Check out our post on Troubleshooting Vlookup's


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