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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 you expect. Here are my top 6 reasons a novice VLOOKUP user finds their formula isn’t working as they expected.
1. Issue of left hand column. VLOOKUP can only look right. It is very restrictive in this respect. Many users will copy and paste columns to adjust this rule.
It contains solutions no Using the VLOOKUP function. A common alternative to VLOOKUP is to use a combination of Excel’s INDEX and MATCH functions. It is very versatile and really opens up more possibilities in using Excel.
2. You need an exact match. The last part of the VLOOKUP formula requires you to specify an exact or alternatively an approximate match.
=VLOOKUP(value,table_array,column_index_number,[range_lookup])
Most Excel users look for an exact match and in those cases need to enter the value FALSE or NULL in this part of the formula. If you leave it blank the default value is TRUE, which means it will look for an approximate match. Mistakes can be made here.
There are many situations when you look for approximate matches with VLOOKUP, for example if you are looking at sales commission brackets or banding. TRUE values must be sorted in ascending order for VLOOKUP to work
So if you are looking for an exact match – Make sure you enter a FALSE value in range_lookup.
3. Wrong column. The column_index_number part of the formula is the column from which the value is displayed. This part of the formula is not actually dynamic and may return an incorrect value if an additional column is inserted into the worksheet in the field where your data is stored.
So, there are some actions you can take to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Lock the worksheet – This will prevent users from making changes. This is not always a viable solution if users need to modify the worksheet.

Use another function with your VLOOKUP – that is the MATCH function, insert it into the col_index_num part or argument of the formula.
4. Dragging formula error. This is one of the most common reasons why VLOOKUP doesn’t return the results you expect. We can solve this problem by wrapping table_array in $ and making it absolute.
5. The data source is extended additional rows of data are added. This is again one of the most common reasons I see. Only there is more data added to the data source and the table_array part of the formula is not updated. There are a couple of ways around this

Convert your data source to an Excel table. Home Tab Style Group Format as Table

Always go to the data source and press CTRL+A to get the complete data set refreshed.
If possible I use the first method and use the data source as a table.
6. Your data contains duplicates. The VLOOKUP function can only return one record. This will return the first record that matches the value you searched 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 that a pivot table is used as an alternative.
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