Excel Vlookup Tutorial Part 1 - What is Vlookup?

What is Vlookup?

Many users have heard of the Excel Vlookup function but are not clear about what it does. Therefore, this page aims to answer the common question "What is Vlookup in Excel?"

Vlookup (short for 'vertical' lookup) is a built-in Excel function that is designed to work with data that is organised into columns. For a specified value, the function finds (or 'looks up') the value in one column of data, and returns the corresponding value from another column.

This best explained through the following example.

Vlookup Example

Imagine that your company keeps a spreadsheet of employee hourly rates of pay (see 'Hourly Pay' spreadsheet below). At the end of each week, the sales team manager sends you a list of hours worked by each of his staff during the week (see 'Sales Team Hours' spreadsheet below). It is your job to complete the 'Sales Team Hours' spreadsheet, to show the pay owed to each member of the sales team.

Spreadsheets Used in Excel Vlookup Exact Match Example

In order to calculate the pay owed to each sales team member, you first need to look up the hourly rate of pay for each person and insert this into column C of the 'Sales Team Hours' spreadsheet. This can be done using the Excel Vlookup function.

As illustrated below, if the Vlookup function is entered into cell C2 of the 'Sales Team Hours' spreadsheet, this can look up the name "Benson, Paul" in column A of the 'Hourly Pay' spreadsheet and return the corresponding rate of pay from column B. Therefore, in this example, the Vlookup function returns the value $32.00.

Vlookup Illustration

The full syntax of the Vlookup formula in the above example is not shown as, for now, we simply wish to explain what the Vlookup function does. The syntax of the Vlookup function is explained in a later stage of this tutorial.

(For those who want to skip ahead, see part 3 of this tutorial: Vlookup Example of Finding an Exact Match).

Exact Match vs. Closest Match

In the above example the Vlookup function is used to find an exact match to the lookup value (which is the text string "Benson, Paul").

The Vlookup function can also be used to return a closest match to the lookup value if an exact match is not found. An example of this is given in part 4 of this tutorial: Vlookup Example of Finding the Closest Match.

If you are still unclear about the purpose of the Vlookup function, a further explanation is provided in a short video on the Microsoft Office website.

Continue to Part 2 of the Excel Vlookup Tutorial  >>