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The Vlookup function (finding an exact match)


Building the function step by step:
1. Type the following code: =vlookup(
2. Type the address of the cell containing the value that you wish to look for in the table.
3. Type the range of the table to look inside, (or better: Name the table before starting with the function, and type now its name). Remember: don’t include the table’s heading row.
4. Type the column number from which you want to retrieve the result.
5. Type the word FALSE which means: “Please find me exactly the value of the cell mentioned in step 2. (Don’t round it down to the closest match)”.
6. Close the bracket and hit the [Enter] key.

Note: The function will always look for the value mentioned on step 2 only on the first column (the utmost left column) of the table.


Vlookup Examples:
Let’s assume you are using the following Excel worksheet: (You can download it here)
A table with data with a student name to look for

=vlookup(C10,A2:E7,2,FALSE)
In words: Look for the value in cell C10 inside table located at A2:E7, and retrieve me the value on the 2’nd column. Please find me exactly what’s in cell C10.

The value of the above formula will be: 99 (on Dan’s row, the second column).


Copying and replicating the function
If you plan on copying the vlookup function, either by “copy” and “paste” or by dragging it with the fill handle, make sure to set the table’s address with fixed reference (e.g. $A$2:$E$7), but it would be better instead to name the table, as in the following example.

You can name the range A2:E7 by selecting it, and typing the name in the name box.
Let’s assume you named it studentsTable (spaces are not allowed, but you may use underscores).

=vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false)
In words: Look for the value in cell C10 inside studentsTable, and retrieve the value from the table’s 3’rd column. Please find me exactly what’s in cell C10.

The value of the above function will be: 45 (on Dan’s row, the value in the third column of the table).


Troubleshoot (advanced usage with more functions)
If the vlookup doesn’t find a match, it will write the following code: #N/A.
You can overcome this code, and set what do display in case it doesn’t find a value by using the IF function with the ISNA() function. Look at the following example:

=if(isna(vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false)),”didn’t find any match”, vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false))
In words: if the vlookup function gives us the #N/A code, then write “didn’t find any match”, else compute the vlookup function.

Explanation:
The 3 parts of the above IF function are:
1. isna(vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false))
2. “didn’t find any match”
3. vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false)

The first part is a condition, which says: Does the vlookup function gives us the #N/A code?
If it does, write “didn’t find any match”, otherwise compute the vlookup function.

Tip:
Instead of the part “didn’t find any match”, you can put only double quotation marks “” which will leave the cell empty in case no match is found:
=if(isna(vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false)),””, vlookup(c10, studentsTable,3,false))

or let it retrieve the value 0 in case of no match:
=if(isna(vlookup(c10,studentsTable,3,false)),0, vlookup(c10, studentsTable,3,false))