How To Set A Formula For A Column In Excel Excel Tip – Six Common Mistakes Made When Using VLOOKUP Function In Excel

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Excel Tip – Six Common Mistakes Made When Using VLOOKUP Function In Excel

Sometimes your VLOOKUP formulas may not produce the expected results. Here are my top 6 reasons why a novice VLOOKUP user finds that their formula doesn’t do what they expected.

1. Left hand column question. VLOOKUP can ONLY look right. In this way, it is quite restrictive. Many users copy and paste columns to fulfill this rule.

Its solution includes not using the VLOOKUP function. A combination of Excel’s INDEX and MATCH functions is a common alternative to VLOOKUP. It is much more versatile and opens up more potential when using Excel.

2. You need an exact match. The last part of the VLOOKUP formula requires you to specify an exact or approximate match.

=VLOOKUP(value,table_array,column_index_number,[range_lookup])

Most of the time, Excel users are looking for an exact match, and in such cases, the value FALSE or null must be entered in this part of the formula. If you leave it blank, it defaults to TRUE, which means it will look for an approximate match. This is where mistakes can be made.

There are many situations where you would look for an approximate match in VLOOKUP, such as when looking at sales commission brackets or bars. For VLOOKUP to work, TRUE values ​​must be sorted in ascending order

So if you are looking for an exact match – make sure you enter FALSE in range_search.

3. Wrong column. The column_index_number part of the formula is the column from which the value to be searched is returned. This part of the formula is not really dynamic and may return an incorrect value if an additional column in the worksheet is entered in your data storage area.

So there are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening.

  • Lock the worksheet – This prevents users from making changes. This is not always a viable solution when users need to modify the worksheet.

  • Use another function with your VLOOKUP – this is the MATCH function, put it in the col_index_num part of the formula or in the argument.

4. Formula drag error. This is one of the most common reasons why VLOOKUP does not produce the desired results. We can solve this problem by making the table_array absolute by wrapping it in $.

5. The data source has been expanded – additional data rows have been added. This is again one of the most common reasons I see. More data has simply been added to the data source and the table_array part of the formula has not been updated. There are a couple of ways around this

  1. Convert your data source to an Excel spreadsheet. Home – Styles Group – Format as Table

  2. Always go to the data source and press CTRL+A to refresh the entire dataset.

If possible, I use the first method and the data source as a table.

6. Your data contains duplicates. The VLOOKUP function can only return one record. It returns the first entry that matches the value searched for in the table array. If your data has more than one possible lookup value, VLOOKUP is not the function you need right now. I recommend using a Pivot Table as an alternative.

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