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A beginner’s guide to using VLOOKUP

If you’re an Excel user, you’ll want to try this out.


We all know how difficult it is to go through all the tables, files, and charts to retrieve some information. At workplaces these kinds of jobs are really common, this is where a popular feature of Excel comes in handy.

It is called the VLOOKUP feature where V stands for vertical, this implies that all the data that needs to be extracted should be in a vertical order. 

Vertical Arrangement

If you want to learn how to use this feature then you have come to the right place, you can learn more in this VLOOKUP guide. As already mentioned that VLOOKUP means vertical lookup, this means that you have to ensure that all the data that needs to be looked up in is vertical format before you use VLOOKUP. But if it seems like too much work to arrange it in a vertical order then you can always use the HLOOKUP feature of Excel that allows users to look up information that is arranged horizontally. 

Exact And Approximate Modes

In VLOOKUP there are two modes that can be used, one is the exact mode while the other is approximate mode. Many consider it a limitation of VLOOKUP that it only gives approximate values, however, what most people do not realize is that, that is only the default setting of this feature.

There are four basic arguments that are provided to VLOOKUP in order for it to be functional, the 4th argument decides whether the mode is exact or approximate. By default, the 4th argument is written as ‘true’, which means that the approximate mode is in use. If you change the argument to ‘false’ or ‘zero’ then you should be able to use the exact mode just fine. 

Most people prefer to use the exact mode since we need exact values in most cases, however, for making an analysis or selecting the best possible match for something using the approximate mode is preferable.

The First Value

There are many cases where there are two or more values or titles that are similar, to look them up through VLOOKUP there needs to be some sort of difference in the titles as VLOOKUP only looks up the values that come first in the arranged order. The second one will not be the one that is looked up which is quite often confusing. 

Case Sensitivity

Many people try to overcome the limitation of the first value lookup by changing the case of the two data with the same title, however, it should be noted that VLOOKUP does not have case sensitivity. Even if you change the title from upper case to lower case or vice-versa then it will not affect the end result, you will still get the first value. 


In order to look up information using VLOOKUP then you need to ensure that you make a column at the left through which you can match all the rows, also, it should always be kept in mind that VLOOKUP only looks for data that is on the right-hand side, and the leftmost column is only for matching the data, this column has an index number that gives it an identity and helps you in looking for whatever you are looking for.

This is something very simple but a lot of people end up making huge mistakes just because of something this small. To avoid such problems you should use EXACT or MATCH features in case your data that needs to be retrieved is on the left side. 

Merging Data

There are times when you have to look up data from different tables and charts which can take up a lot of your time, however, with the help of VLOOKUP you can merge all the tables and cells that you need for retrieving the required data from. This will save you a lot of time and you can get all the information in just one go. 

Classifying Data

If you ever want to group or classify a data structure then that is also possible by using VLOOKUP. You can assign each group a grade which will classify or categorize them and when you want to look it up you can very easily do so just by searching for the grade which was assigned to it. 

Inserting Columns

While it is very easy to merge data and different columns that already exist, it is not the same when you are supposed to insert columns in between existing columns that already have formulas in them. If you insert more columns in the existing VLOOKUP sheets then it will break up the loops and you will no longer be able to look up information that you wanted. Keep this factor in mind when making the tables.

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