The VLOOKUP Function

The VLOOKUP function is used to retrieve information from a table based on a specified lookup value. There is a new version of VLOOKUP called XLOOKUP that resolves the deficiencies of VLOOKUP. The VLOOKUP function uses the following syntax:

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

  • lookup_value is the value you want to find in the table.
  • table_array is the range of cells that contains the data you want to search through.
  • col_index_num is the column index of the value you want to retrieve within the table_array.
  • [range_lookup] is an optional argument that specifies whether you want an exact match or an approximate match. It's set to TRUE (or omitted) for an approximate match and FALSE for an exact match.


Basic VLOOKUP Usage

Suppose you have a table with employee IDs in column A and their corresponding names in column B. To find the name of an employee with ID "E123," use the following formula:

=VLOOKUP("E123", A1:B10, 2, FALSE)

Approximate Match with VLOOKUP

If you have a table with grade ranges and corresponding letter grades, and you want to find the letter grade for a score of 85, use:

=VLOOKUP(85, A1:B5, 2, TRUE)

VLOOKUP for Price Lookup

Imagine you have a product catalog with item codes in column A and their corresponding prices in column C. If you want to find the price of an item with code "P456," you can use:

=VLOOKUP("P456", A1:C10, 3, FALSE)

Key Points to Consider

  • The VLOOKUP function is useful for quickly retrieving information from a dataset without manual searching.
  • It is commonly used for tasks like data validation, creating summary reports, and consolidating/joining information from different sources.
  • VLOOKUP is limited to vertical lookups and requires the lookup value to be in the first column of the table_array.
  • In cases where the data isn't sorted or you need more flexible lookup options, consider using the XLOOKUP() function.

When to Use the VLOOKUP Function

  • When you need to find specific data points in a large dataset using a single criterion.
  • For tasks such as creating reports, summarizing data, and validating input values.
  • In situations where you have a well-structured dataset with lookup values in the first column.
  • When you want to combine fields from two datasets


The VLOOKUP function is a fundamental tool for data retrieval and analysis in spreadsheets. Its ability to quickly fetch information based on a lookup value makes it indispensable for various business and analytical tasks. While it's primarily used for vertical lookups, VLOOKUP remains a key function for efficiently handling structured data. Experiment with the VLOOKUP function in your Row Zero workbook to explore its capabilities further.