How to Use VLookup Excel Function

As promised in my previous post, this time I will start by discussing the Vlookup Microsoft excel function. VLookup is one of the most commonly used excel functions in data analysis today.I would like to show you with examples when and where you could use VLookup in your day to day work. Microsoft® Excel is a simple and yet POWERFUL tool if you master it.

What is Excel’s VLookup Function?

VLookup is an excel function that is used to search for specific information located in a spreadsheet table. Vlook up is also known as the vertical lookup. The lookup looks for the needed information in the first column of the table range. There is also Hlookup. But because most of the look up needs involve Vlookup, this article will focus on Vlookup.

V-Lookup formula is written as follows:

 VLookup (look up value, table range, column index (range lookup))

Below is an explanation of each of the terms:

  •   Look up value: This is the value we want to look for in the spreadsheet table.
  •  Table range: This is spreadsheet table range that we will need to search for the look up value. Here we identify the table range of cells where the Vlookup will search for the needed information.
  •  column index: This is the vertical column in the spreadsheet table range where to look for the needed information. Usually this is the first column 
  •  Range lookup: This is an optional argument. This command instructs Vlookup function to search for exact match or approximate match of the needed information. If an exact match is required we use False or 0 range look up command. If no exact match is obtained excel returns # NA response. If an approximate match is needed then we use True or 1 range look up command; alternatively we can leave the range of lookup command blank. If the range lookup argument is true or omitted and exact match does not exist, excel bases the look up on the largest value in the first column that is less than the look up value. For approximate match range look up to work correctly the first column of the table range (the column of our interest for the search value) must be in an ascending numerical order. 

Following below is an example of how to use Vlookup function.

Let us assume you are tasked with doing bank reconciliation and you need to come up with a list of outstanding checks at the end of a particular month say June 30, 2011.Since your firm uses positive pay, the bank provides your firm with a list of outstanding checks per the bank records. At the same time you have a file of outstanding checks per the firm’s internal records. The bank’s records of the outstanding checks does not reconcile to the firm’s internal records. Therefore, you will need to compare the two records and find out what are the reconciling items. This is how you solve the problem using Vlookup function.

Table A represents your firm’s internal records and table B represents the bank’s records. Follow the link below to access the Vlookup tables:

 VLOOKUP Table A and Table B

Further explanation follows below:

The Analysis:

1)      As the difference of $31,715 shows there are checks in table B but not in table A

2)     Also, there are checks included in table A but not in table B 

3)     Therefore, we will need to use Vlookup to analyse the cause  of the differences 

4)     In this example I will look for checks in table B but not in  table A 

5)     On your own look for the checks that are in table A but not in table B 

6)     The  check number is our unique identifier so our query will be based on check # 

How to write the Vlookup Function

Below is the format that we will use to construct the Vlookup function.

VLookup (look up value, table range, column index (range lookup))



1)      In cell H, 1 type equal sign then type v, a menu window will open with Vlookup function among others,  double click it.

that now satisfies the first part of the formula: Vlookup

2)     Our look up value is the check # in cell F1. We want to find out if this check # is also found in table A. So click cell F 1. Now we have our look up value 

3)     Next we select our table range and in this case it is A1:C 18  then press F4 to make the selection absolute

4)     Next we select our table range and in this case it is A1:C 18  then press F4 to make the selection absolute

5)     Our column index is the first column of our table (A) selection where to look for our look up value in this case we write 1

6)     Now copy the formula down. You now have missing check numbers with N/A results. Now it is Easy!


Remember to separate each function with a comma.


Now that you have become an expert do the following exercise on your own

On your own look for the checks that are in table A but not table B

Good Luck!

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