How to Do a VLOOKUP in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

how to do a vlookup in excel

VLOOKUP is an essential Excel function that allows you to search for a value in the first column of a table and return a value in the same row from a specified column. It’s like having a magic wand that can find and retrieve data quickly. To do a VLOOKUP, you’ll need to input a formula, specify what you’re looking for, and where it should look for it. Follow these easy steps to become a VLOOKUP pro!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Do a VLOOKUP in Excel

In this tutorial, we’ll guide you through the steps to perform a VLOOKUP in Excel. By the end, you’ll be able to search for data in a table and retrieve corresponding values efficiently.

Step 1: Open Your Excel Sheet

Open the Excel file that contains the data you want to search through.

Ensure your data is organized in a table format, with headers in the first row.

Step 2: Click on an Empty Cell

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

This cell will display the data you’re searching for once the VLOOKUP is complete.

Step 3: Start Typing the VLOOKUP Formula

Begin typing =VLOOKUP( in the selected cell.

Make sure to type the formula correctly to avoid any errors.

Step 4: Enter the Lookup Value

After the open parenthesis, type the value you’re looking for, or click on the cell that contains this value, followed by a comma.

This tells Excel what you are trying to find.

Step 5: Select the Table Array

Highlight the range of cells that make up your table, including headers, then add a comma.

The table array is where Excel will search for the lookup value.

Step 6: Enter the Column Index Number

Type the column number of the value you want to return, followed by a comma.

The column index number indicates which column’s data to pull once the lookup value is found.

Step 7: Specify the Range Lookup

Type FALSE (for an exact match) or TRUE (for an approximate match), then close the parenthesis.

Using FALSE ensures you get an exact match, which is more common in most scenarios.

Step 8: Hit Enter

Press the Enter key to complete the formula.

Excel will now search for the lookup value and return the corresponding data.

Congratulations! You’ve just performed a VLOOKUP in Excel. The value you searched for should now be displayed in the cell you selected.

Tips for Doing a VLOOKUP in Excel

  • Double-check your table array to ensure it includes all necessary data.
  • Use absolute references (like $A$1:$C$10) for the table array to keep it constant if you’re copying the formula to other cells.
  • If your lookup value is a text, ensure there are no extra spaces or typos.
  • Remember that VLOOKUP searches for the lookup value in the first column of your table array.
  • If the lookup value isn’t found, Excel will return a #N/A error. Use IFERROR to handle such cases gracefully.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Do a VLOOKUP in Excel

What does VLOOKUP stand for?

Vertical Lookup. It searches for a value vertically down the first column of a table.

Can I use VLOOKUP with text and numbers?

Yes, VLOOKUP works with both text and numbers as lookup values.

What happens if my lookup value is not found?

Excel will return a #N/A error. You can use IFERROR to display a custom message instead.

Can I use VLOOKUP to search in multiple columns?

No, VLOOKUP searches only the first column of the table array. For multiple columns, you might need to use the INDEX and MATCH functions.

What’s the difference between TRUE and FALSE in VLOOKUP?

TRUE finds the closest match while FALSE finds an exact match. Usually, FALSE is used for precise searches.


  1. Open your Excel sheet.
  2. Click on an empty cell.
  3. Start typing the VLOOKUP formula.
  4. Enter the lookup value.
  5. Select the table array.
  6. Enter the column index number.
  7. Specify the range lookup.
  8. Hit Enter.


Mastering the VLOOKUP function in Excel can significantly boost your data management skills. Whether you’re dealing with a small dataset or a large spreadsheet, VLOOKUP is your go-to tool for finding specific information quickly. By following the steps outlined above, you can easily perform a VLOOKUP and make your data analysis more efficient.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t hesitate to try this function on different datasets to become more comfortable with its usage. Once you’re familiar with VLOOKUP, you’ll wonder how you ever managed your data without it!

If you found this tutorial helpful, keep exploring Excel’s functionalities. There are many other powerful features, like pivot tables and conditional formatting, that can further streamline your workflow. Happy Excel-ling!