How to Use VLOOKUP in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

VLOOKUP in Excel can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to find specific data in a large spreadsheet. It’s a function that searches for a value in the first column of a table and returns a value in the same row from a specified column. Here’s a quick guide on how to use VLOOKUP in Excel.

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Use VLOOKUP in Excel

VLOOKUP is a powerful tool in Excel that allows you to quickly search for and retrieve data from a table. Here’s how to use it:

Step 1: Identify the Lookup Value

Choose the value you want to search for in your table.

The lookup value is the piece of data you want to find in your table. It could be a name, a number, or any other unique identifier that’s listed in the first column of your table.

Step 2: Define the Table Array

Select the table range where you want to search for the lookup value.

The table array is the range of cells that make up your table. It should include the column where your lookup value is located as well as the column from which you want to retrieve data.

Step 3: Determine the Column Index Number

Decide which column contains the data you want to retrieve.

The column index number is the number of the column in the table array from which you want to pull data. It’s important to count the columns starting from the first column of your table array.

Step 4: Set the Range Lookup

Choose whether you want an exact match or an approximate match for your lookup value.

The range lookup can be set to TRUE for an approximate match or FALSE for an exact match. If you’re looking for a specific value, you’ll generally want to set this to FALSE.

After completing these steps, Excel will return the data from the specified column that corresponds to your lookup value. If the function can’t find the value, it will display an error message.

Tips for Using VLOOKUP in Excel

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when using VLOOKUP in Excel:

  • Always ensure your lookup value is in the first column of your table array.
  • Remember to count columns from the left starting with the first column in your table array for the column index number.
  • If you’re looking for an exact match, always set the range lookup to FALSE.
  • Double-check your table array to make sure it includes all the data you need.
  • Use absolute cell references (with $ signs) for your table array if you plan to copy the VLOOKUP formula to other cells.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does VLOOKUP stand for?

VLOOKUP stands for “Vertical Lookup.” It’s called this because it searches for data vertically in a column.

Can VLOOKUP search for data horizontally?

No, VLOOKUP only searches vertically in the first column of a table. If you need to search horizontally, you can use the HLOOKUP function.

What happens if VLOOKUP can’t find the lookup value?

If VLOOKUP can’t find the lookup value, it will return an error message, typically #N/A.

Can I use VLOOKUP to search for a partial match?

Yes, you can use wildcard characters like “*” or “?” in your lookup value to search for a partial match.

Is VLOOKUP case-sensitive?

No, VLOOKUP is not case-sensitive. It will treat uppercase and lowercase letters as the same.


  1. Identify the lookup value.
  2. Define the table array.
  3. Determine the column index number.
  4. Set the range lookup.


Mastering VLOOKUP in Excel can transform the way you handle data. It’s a function that’s both versatile and powerful, enabling you to search through rows of data with ease. The steps outlined in this article provide a clear pathway to using VLOOKUP effectively, and the additional tips offer further insights into getting the most out of this function. When used correctly, VLOOKUP can save you countless hours of manual data searching, allowing you to focus on what really matters – the analysis and interpretation of data. So, roll up your sleeves, open up Excel, and start VLOOKUP-ing your way to a more streamlined workflow.

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