Understanding VLookup

Vlookup is a powerful function that can help you lookup information from a table or list of data. Suppose you have a list of 5000+ movies like the one shown below. The VLookup function will allow Excel to lookup an ID number and return the corresponding title, year, category, rating, etc.

The following slides, used in our Excel Formulas and Functions class, explain how VLookup works.

In this slide you see a list of students in column A and the score they received in column B. In column C you need a function that will lookup the closest score from column E and return the corresponding grade from column F.

The next slide shows that the VLookup function has the answer.

Some may wonder, why is it called VLookup?

As shown in the next slide, the “V” stands for vertical lookup. The function vertically looks for the closest score.

Excel’s function feature tells you that VLookup has the four argument shown in the next slide.

I like to think of the four arguments as four questions:

  • What am I looking up?
  • Where am I looking for it?
  • Which column, from the list do I want returned?
  • Should the function look for an approximate match? If yes enter True, but if an exact match is needed enter False.

So applying this to our earlier list of movies we would enter the following:

And Excel would return the following results.

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