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- Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP Function – Looking Up Values in an MS Excel Database or Table
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## Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP Function – Looking Up Values in an MS Excel Database or Table

Consider a simple spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel that contains a table of data in columns A-C as follows.

- Column A – the employee’s unique personnel number
- Column B – their name
- Column C – Their salary

Let’s say there are 99 people in the table (that is, the table ends at row 100, taking into account the column headings). You want to know someone’s salary, but all you have is their personnel number. How can you do this using an Excel function?

The answer is to look up the person’s data in a lookup table (ie a table containing people’s names and employee numbers) and return the value in the third column, making sure to specify that only an exact match is good enough.

To see how this works, suppose you type in a cell **E1 **staff number (let’s say it’s 12345) and in the cell **F1 **you enter the following formula:

**=VLOOKUP(E1,A1:C100,3,FALSE)**

Four arguments are used here; each does the following (an argument is any piece of information you pass to the function inside the parentheses):

**E1**– this is the personnel number we want to find in the table**A1:C100**– this is the table from which we are looking for the personnel number. For the search table to work, we search for (here personnel number)__must__be in the first column of the lookup table.**3**– the column we return (here is the value in the third column of the table: i.e. salary)**WRONG**– that means we have to make an exact match. If you don’t specify this, Excel may decide that it found 12344 and that’s close enough, with disastrous consequences. Many people choose to type it**WRONG**takes too long and use 0 instead (which has the same effect).

This is one use of Excel’s VLOOKUP function: to return the value of a specific field in a database. Another use is when we want to look up a value in a range, but that’s a topic for another article.

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