# Excel Formula To Check If Value Is In A List VLOOKUP – 10 Handy Steps to Escape From a Typical Error Trap

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## VLOOKUP – 10 Handy Steps to Escape From a Typical Error Trap

The VLOOKUP function is generally considered to be a problematic formula. Why does this happen?

Let’s recreate a typical case…

1. The backend list is in place.
2. You have an index column to search on, for example: “product code”.
3. You write a VLOOKUP formula in less than a minute: you enter the lookup_value, you select the data set, you set the column number to retrieve and the fourth parameter (exact or approximate match).
4. All the problems start when you press enter; The lookup value is supposed to be in the backend, but you get a NA error. Your frustration increases when no amount of change fixes the error.

Then, you are out of ideas and bored.

Escape the NA Error Trap in 10 Steps…

1. Check that the index column is on the leftmost side of your lookup table.
2. Check that there are no leading and trailing spaces in the left column.
3. Check that there are no misspellings in the left column (pay attention to this when searching for texts).
4. Check that the index column’s data is the same as the lookup_value argument. For example, if you are searching for numbers, the left column should not contain numbers stored as text.
5. Check that the left column is sorted in ascending order when you perform the approximate match VLOOKUP.
6. Check that the formula is well written; All arguments must be complete. Remember to set the fourth argument to 0 for an exact match formula.
7. Check whether lookup_value is referenced correctly or lookup_value is properly hard coded.
8. Notice that lookup_value refers to the left column of the table array. For example: your lookup_value points to the “product name” column but your left index column field is “product code”.
9. Check that the table_array argument refers to the correct data set. Check this when you insert columns into the backend list or to confirm that the table_array range is entered correctly.
10. If you still receive the NA message; The backend index column does not include search value.

The most important way to escape the VLOOKUP trap is to make your index column a high priority quality control point. Don’t make the mistake of looking for an index column that is completely messy. You will have problems again and again.

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