How to VLOOKUP in Excel: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

If you’re working with data in Excel, VLOOKUP is a must-know function. It helps you find specific information in a large table of data. By following some simple steps, you can master this function and make your life a whole lot easier when dealing with spreadsheets.

How to VLOOKUP in Excel

In this section, we’ll break down the steps required to use VLOOKUP in Excel. This will allow you to search for a value in one column and return a value in the same row from another column.

Step 1: Open your Excel Spreadsheet

Start by opening the Excel file where you want to use VLOOKUP.

Make sure your data is organized in a table with clear headers. This will make it easier to find the information you’re looking for.

Step 2: Select the Cell for the Result

Click on the cell where you want the result of your VLOOKUP to appear.

Choosing the correct cell helps keep your data organized and ensures the result is easily accessible.

Step 3: Enter the VLOOKUP Formula

Type =VLOOKUP( into the selected cell.

This is the beginning of the formula that tells Excel you want to perform a VLOOKUP.

Step 4: Define the Lookup Value

After the parenthesis, type the value you’re looking for, or click on the cell that contains the value.

The lookup value is the item you want to search for within the table.

Step 5: Specify the Table Array

Next, type a comma and then select the range of cells that includes the data you want to search.

The table array is the range where Excel will look for the lookup value and return the corresponding result.

Step 6: Enter the Column Index Number

Type another comma, followed by the number of the column from which you want to retrieve data.

The column index number tells Excel which column’s value to return.

Step 7: Choose the Range Lookup Option

Type another comma, then enter FALSE if you want an exact match, or TRUE if an approximate match is acceptable.

Choosing FALSE is safer as it ensures you get an exact match for your lookup value.

Step 8: Close the Parenthesis and Press Enter

Finally, close the parenthesis and press Enter to complete the formula.

Excel will now perform the VLOOKUP and display the result in the selected cell.

Once you’ve completed these steps, Excel will return the value from the same row as your lookup value but from the column you specified. This can save you tons of time, especially when dealing with large datasets.

Tips for VLOOKUP in Excel

  • Always make sure your data is sorted properly to avoid unexpected results.
  • Use absolute references (like $A$2:$D$10) for the table array to prevent errors when copying the formula.
  • If you’re working with large datasets, consider using INDEX and MATCH instead for better performance.
  • Ensure there are no duplicate values in the lookup column to get accurate results.
  • Test your VLOOKUP with a few known values to make sure it works correctly before applying it to the entire dataset.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does VLOOKUP stand for?

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 search from right to left?

No, VLOOKUP can only search from left to right. If you need to search right to left, consider using the INDEX and MATCH functions instead.

How do I handle errors in VLOOKUP?

You can use the IFERROR function to handle errors. Wrap your VLOOKUP formula with IFERROR(VLOOKUP(...), "Error message") to display a custom message instead of an error.

Can I use VLOOKUP for case-sensitive searches?

VLOOKUP is not case-sensitive. For case-sensitive searches, you would need a more complex formula using Excel functions like MATCH and INDEX.

What is the difference between VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP?

VLOOKUP searches for a value in the first column of a table, while HLOOKUP searches in the first row. Use VLOOKUP for vertical tables and HLOOKUP for horizontal tables.


  1. Open your Excel Spreadsheet.
  2. Select the Cell for the Result.
  3. Enter the VLOOKUP Formula.
  4. Define the Lookup Value.
  5. Specify the Table Array.
  6. Enter the Column Index Number.
  7. Choose the Range Lookup Option.
  8. Close the Parenthesis and Press Enter.


VLOOKUP in Excel is a powerful tool that can save you time and effort when working with large datasets. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can quickly look up and retrieve specific data with ease. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to try out different scenarios and datasets to become more proficient. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or just someone looking to simplify data management, mastering VLOOKUP will make your Excel experience far more efficient. Happy Excel-ing!

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