How to use VLOOKUP in Excel

VLOOKUP is an Excel-in-built Excel function.  The V stands for Vertical. Hence the parts stand for Vertical Lookup. It is a tool used in Excel to look up information or data across different Excel columns and extract corresponding information. In short VLOOKUP function allows a user to establish the relationship between the other columns of Excel. The function matches the value to the first column of the data you use.

Apart from this, VLOOKUP is a crucial function in Excel as it is used every day. Most users of the function are financiers as it is an excellent tool in financial modeling and analysis. The function’s greatest weakness is that it concentrates on values in the right of the first column in the table.

Please read on to find out about the Excel VLOOKUP function and how to use it.


The function is

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

  1. Lookup_value is a required argument in the formula. It specifies the value that an Excel user wants to look up in the first Colum of a table.
  2. Table_array is a required argument. It is the data array that a user has to search and retrieve a value. It covers the entire table’s span from the first entry data on the top-left cell to the bottom-right cell’s last entry data.
  3. Column_index_number. It is a required argument in the function. It represents the column number from the table array from where you want to retrieve your value (column in which the value you want to look up is).
  4. Range_lookup is an optional argument. It means that one can specify what answer they prefer or not. It looks at VLOOKUP results which a user can achieve. By typing FALSE, you get an exact match, and if the match is not found, you will get a return error message. By typing TRUE, you get an approximate match.

Outlined steps on how to use the VLOOKUP function

  1. Open your Excel workbook. Check on your data to make sure it is in proper format and well organized. Data in rows restricts the use of this function.
  2. Select an empty cell. Click on an empty cell where you want to type in the VLOOKUP function and key results.
  3. Type in the VLOOKUP formula. =VLOOKUP(), Remember to start with the = sign before the formula and include commas while typing in the values inside the opening and closing parenthesis.
  4. In the parenthesis, enter the Lookup_value. The value can be an actual value or a blank cell that will hold a value. Follow this by adding a comma. For example, cell H5
  5. Enter the table array. Type in the first cell in the top-left cell, type a colon to separate it from the cell in the bottom right of your data. Add a comma after this. For example, A3:D3,
  6. Enter the column index number. Type in the value you want VLOOKUP to display. Then type a comma after it. For example, if you are using values from columns A, B, C, and D and you want a value from the last column, type in 4,
  7. Type in FALSE if you want the function o find an exact match or TRUE an approximate match. Your function will end up like this, =VLOOKUP(H5, A3:D3,4, FALSE).
  8. Press Enter to run your formula and display the result in the selected cell.

Instead of entering the formula manually in the formula bar, you can use this function from Excel.

  • Go to the FORMULAS tab on the main menu ribbon.
  •  Go to Lookup & Reference drop-down arrow.
  • Scroll through the given options and select Vlookup.
  • A dialogue box will be displayed, fill in the necessary data in the different field boxes of the formula, and click OK to run the formula after you are done.


This article has provided you with steps on using the VLOOKUP function in Excel to get Exact and Approximate matches as your result. This function is easy to apply for long as you know the correct formula and ways to extract values from your data.

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