How to Create a VLOOKUP in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Creating a VLOOKUP in Excel is simpler than it sounds. The VLOOKUP function allows you to search for a specific value in a table and return a value in the same row from a specified column. Follow these steps to master VLOOKUP and make your data tasks a breeze.

How to Create a VLOOKUP in Excel

In this section, we will walk you through the steps to create a VLOOKUP in Excel. By the end, you’ll know how to find information quickly and efficiently.

Step 1: Select the Cell for the VLOOKUP Formula

First, click on the cell where you want the VLOOKUP result to appear.

Choosing the right cell is crucial because this is where your retrieved value will be displayed. Make sure it’s an empty cell to avoid overwriting existing data.

Step 2: Enter the VLOOKUP Formula

Type =VLOOKUP( in the selected cell.

Starting with the equals sign opens the formula. VLOOKUP stands for "Vertical Lookup," so you’re telling Excel to perform a vertical search.

Step 3: Specify the Lookup Value

After the opening parenthesis, type the cell reference for the value you want to search, followed by a comma (e.g., B2,).

The lookup value is the item you’re searching for in the first column of your table. This can be a cell reference or an actual value in quotes.

Step 4: Define the Table Array

Next, enter the range of cells containing the data you want to search through, followed by a comma (e.g., A1:D10,).

The table array is the range of cells that contains the data. Make sure the first column includes the lookup value.

Step 5: Specify the Column Index Number

Type the column number of the value you want to return, followed by a comma (e.g., 3,).

The column index number tells Excel which column to return the value from. The leftmost column is column 1, the next column is 2, and so on.

Step 6: Enter the Range Lookup Value

Type either TRUE or FALSE and close the parenthesis (e.g., FALSE).

TRUE finds the closest match, while FALSE finds an exact match. For most uses, FALSE is recommended for precise results.

Step 7: Press Enter

Hit the Enter key to complete the formula.

Once you press Enter, Excel will execute the VLOOKUP function and display the result in the selected cell.

After completing these steps, you will see the value from the specified column in the row where the lookup value is located. This powerful tool saves time and improves accuracy when working with large datasets.

Tips for Creating a VLOOKUP in Excel

  • Always lock the table array with dollar signs ($A$1:$D$10) if you plan to copy the formula to other cells.
  • Make sure your data is sorted when using TRUE as the range lookup value.
  • If you get a #N/A error, it means the lookup value isn’t found in the first column of your table array.
  • For large datasets, consider using Excel’s "Define Name" feature to make your formulas easier to read.
  • Use the IFERROR function to handle errors gracefully, e.g., =IFERROR(VLOOKUP(…), "Not Found").

Frequently Asked Questions

What does VLOOKUP mean in Excel?

VLOOKUP stands for "Vertical Lookup." It searches for a value in the first column of a table and returns a value in the same row from another column.

Can VLOOKUP work across different sheets?

Yes, you can use VLOOKUP across different sheets by including the sheet name in the table array reference, like Sheet1!A1:D10.

What is a table array in VLOOKUP?

A table array is the range of cells that contains the data you want to search through.

What does the FALSE parameter mean in VLOOKUP?

The FALSE parameter specifies that you want an exact match for the lookup value.

Can VLOOKUP return multiple values?

VLOOKUP itself can’t return multiple values, but you can use it in combination with other functions to achieve that.

Summary of Steps

  1. Select the Cell for the VLOOKUP Formula.
  2. Enter the VLOOKUP Formula.
  3. Specify the Lookup Value.
  4. Define the Table Array.
  5. Specify the Column Index Number.
  6. Enter the Range Lookup Value.
  7. Press Enter.


Creating a VLOOKUP in Excel can seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. This powerful function is essential for anyone who works with large sets of data and needs to retrieve information quickly.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to create VLOOKUP formulas with ease. Remember, practice makes perfect! Try using VLOOKUP in different scenarios to become more comfortable with its functionality.

Don’t forget to use the tips and tricks we’ve shared to make your VLOOKUP formulas even more efficient. If you encounter any issues, refer back to the FAQs for quick troubleshooting.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive into Excel and start mastering VLOOKUP today!

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