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

Sometimes your VLOOKUP formulas may not produce the results that you expect. Here are are my top 6 reasons that a novice VLOOKUP user finds their formula is not doing what they expected.

1. The issue of the Left Hand Column. VLOOKUP can ONLY look right. In this way it is quite restricting. A lot of users will copy and paste columns to accommodate this rule.

The solution to this involves not using the VLOOKUP function. Using a combination of the INDEX and MATCH functions of Excel is a common alternative to VLOOKUP. It is far more versatile and really opens up more potential in using Excel.

2. You Need An Exact Match. The last part of the VLOOKUP formula requires you to specify an exact or an alternatively an approximate match.

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

Mostly Excel users look for an exact match and in those instances the value FALSE or zero needs to be entered into this part of the formula. If you leave it blank then the default value is TRUE, which means it will look for an approximate match. This is where the mistakes can be made.

There are numerous circumstances when you would look for an approximate match from a VLOOKUP, for example if you are looking at the sales commission bracket or banding. In order for the VLOOKUP to work the TRUE values must be sorted in ascending order

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

3. Wrong Column. The column_index_number part of the formula is the column from which the value are looking up is returned. This part of the formula is really not dynamic and can return incorrect value if an extra column in inserted into the worksheet in the area where your data is stored.

So, there are a few actions you can take to ensure this does not happen.

• Lock the worksheet – this will prevent users making changes. This is not always a viable solution if users do need to amend the worksheet.
• Use another function with your VLOOKUP – that is the MATCH function, insert this into the col_index_num part or argument of the formula.

4. Dragging Formula Error. This is on eof the most common reasons that a VLOOKUP is not returning the results you expect it to. We can fix this issue by make the table_array absolute by wrapping it in \$.

5. Data Source Has Expanded- extra rows of data have been added. This is again one of the more common reasons I see. Simply there has been more data added to the data source and the table_array part of the formula has not been updated. There a a couple of ways around this

1. Convert your data source to an Excel table. Home Tab- Styles Group- Format As Table
2. Always go to data source and hit CTRL+A to get the full data set refreshed.

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

6. You Data Contains Duplicates. The VLOOKUP function can only return one record. It will return the first record that matches the value you looked for in your table array. If your data has more than one possible lookup value then VLOOKUP is not the function you need at this time. I suggest a Pivot Table is used as an alternative.

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