Excel Tutorial: How To Match Data In Two Excel Sheets Using Vlookup


Matching data in Excel is vital for ensuring accuracy and consistency in your spreadsheets. Whether you're working with sales figures, inventory lists, or any other type of data, being able to compare and link information across different sheets is a key skill for any Excel user.

The VLOOKUP function is a powerful tool that allows you to quickly and easily find and link data from one sheet to another based on a common identifier. In this tutorial, we'll walk you through the steps to use VLOOKUP effectively for matching data in two Excel sheets.

Key Takeaways

  • Matching data in Excel is crucial for accuracy and consistency in spreadsheets.
  • VLOOKUP is a powerful tool for quickly and easily finding and linking data across sheets.
  • Preparing data in a tabular format and sorting it is essential for accurate matching with VLOOKUP.
  • Understanding common errors and troubleshooting techniques is important for effective use of VLOOKUP.
  • Advanced techniques, such as using wildcard characters and combining VLOOKUP with other functions, can expand the capabilities of the VLOOKUP function.

Understanding VLOOKUP

The VLOOKUP function in Excel is a powerful tool that allows you to find and retrieve data from a table. It is commonly used to match data in two Excel sheets and can save a lot of time when working with large datasets.

A. Explanation of how VLOOKUP function works

The VLOOKUP function works by searching for a value in the left-most column of a table and returning a value in the same row from a specified column. This allows you to easily find and retrieve data from a table based on a specific criteria.

B. Discussion on the syntax and parameters of VLOOKUP

The syntax of the VLOOKUP function is as follows:

  • Lookup_value: The value to search for in the first column of the table.
  • Table_array: The range of cells that contains the table you want to search.
  • Col_index_num: The column number in the table from which to retrieve the value.
  • Range_lookup: A logical value that specifies whether to find an exact or approximate match.

Preparing Data for VLOOKUP

Before using VLOOKUP to match data in two Excel sheets, it is important to ensure that the data is prepared in the right format and sorted correctly for accurate matching.

A. Ensuring data is in a tabular format

Before applying VLOOKUP, it is essential to ensure that both datasets are organized in a tabular format. This means that each column should have a proper heading and each row should represent a unique record. This will make it easier to reference and match the data using VLOOKUP.

B. Sorting data to enable accurate matching

Sorting the data in both sheets based on a common key will help in accurate matching using VLOOKUP. In most cases, the key field should be sorted in ascending order. This ensures that the lookup value is found quickly and accurately.

  • Start by selecting the key field in both sheets
  • Go to the "Data" tab in Excel and click on "Sort"
  • Choose the key field and specify the sorting order
  • Repeat this process for both sheets to ensure consistency in the data

Using VLOOKUP to Match Data

Microsoft Excel's VLOOKUP function is a powerful tool that allows users to quickly and easily match data from two different sheets within the same workbook. This can be extremely helpful when working with large datasets or when trying to reconcile information from multiple sources. In this tutorial, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to use the VLOOKUP function and offer some tips for choosing the correct lookup value.

A. Step-by-step guide on how to use VLOOKUP function

The VLOOKUP function searches for a value in the first column of a table and returns a value in the same row from another column. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use the VLOOKUP function:

  • Select the cell where you want the VLOOKUP result to appear: Before you begin, it's important to select the cell where you want the VLOOKUP result to appear. This is typically the cell in which you want to display the matched data from the other sheet.
  • Enter the VLOOKUP function: In the selected cell, enter the VLOOKUP function by typing =VLOOKUP( and then specifying the lookup value, table array, column index number, and range lookup.
  • Specify the lookup value: The lookup value is the value you want to search for in the first column of the table. This is typically a unique identifier, such as a customer ID or product code.
  • Specify the table array: The table array is the range of cells that contains the data you want to match against. This can be in the same sheet or a different sheet within the same workbook.
  • Specify the column index number: The column index number is the number of the column in the table array from which the matching value should be returned. This is typically the column number where the desired data is located.
  • Specify the range lookup: The range lookup is a logical value that specifies whether you want an exact match or an approximate match. It's important to choose the appropriate option based on your specific needs.
  • Press Enter to complete the formula: Once you have entered all the required parameters, press Enter to complete the VLOOKUP formula and display the matched data in the selected cell.

B. Tips for choosing the correct lookup value

Choosing the correct lookup value is crucial for ensuring the accuracy of the VLOOKUP results. Here are some tips for selecting the right lookup value:

  • Use unique identifiers: Whenever possible, use unique identifiers as the lookup value. This could be a customer ID, product code, employee number, or any other unique identifier that is present in both sheets.
  • Clean and format the data: Before using VLOOKUP, it's important to ensure that the data in the lookup column is clean and formatted consistently. This will help avoid errors and inaccuracies in the matching process.
  • Avoid leading or trailing spaces: Be mindful of leading or trailing spaces in the lookup value, as these can cause mismatches when using VLOOKUP. Use the TRIM function to remove any extra spaces.
  • Consider using helper columns: In some cases, it may be helpful to create helper columns to manipulate the data and ensure that the lookup value is formatted correctly for the VLOOKUP function.
  • Test the VLOOKUP results: Once the VLOOKUP formula has been applied, it's important to test the results to ensure that the matching data is accurate. Double-check a few sample records to validate the accuracy of the VLOOKUP function.

Dealing with Errors

When using VLOOKUP in Excel to match data in two sheets, you may encounter some common errors. It's important to know how to troubleshoot these errors to ensure the accuracy of your data.

A. Common errors encountered with VLOOKUP
  • #N/A error: This error occurs when the value being looked up is not found in the table_array.
  • Incorrect results: Sometimes VLOOKUP may return incorrect results if the lookup value is not unique in the table_array.
  • Data type mismatch: VLOOKUP may also result in errors if the data types of the lookup value and the table_array are not compatible.

B. Troubleshooting techniques for VLOOKUP errors
  • Check for spelling and case sensitivity: Ensure that the lookup value and the values in the table_array are spelled and formatted exactly the same.
  • Use the exact match option: To avoid incorrect results, use the exact match option by setting the fourth argument of VLOOKUP to FALSE.
  • Verify data types: Check and verify that the data types of the lookup value and the table_array are compatible, especially when dealing with numbers and text.
  • Use IFERROR function: Wrap your VLOOKUP formula with the IFERROR function to handle #N/A errors and display custom messages or values.
  • Double-check table_array range: Ensure that the table_array range in your VLOOKUP formula includes the entire range of data that you want to search.

Advanced VLOOKUP Techniques

Mastering the VLOOKUP function is essential for efficiently matching data in different Excel sheets. Let's explore some advanced techniques to take your VLOOKUP skills to the next level.

A. Incorporating wildcard characters in VLOOKUP
  • Understanding wildcard characters

    Wildcards are symbols used to represent unknown characters in a search. In VLOOKUP, the asterisk (*) and question mark (?) can be used as wildcard characters to match partial or unknown data.

  • Using wildcard characters in VLOOKUP

    By incorporating wildcard characters in your VLOOKUP formula, you can effectively match data based on partial or fuzzy criteria, expanding the capabilities of the function.

B. Using VLOOKUP with other functions for more complex matching
  • Combining VLOOKUP with IF function

    By combining VLOOKUP with the IF function, you can create more complex matching conditions, allowing you to perform specific actions based on the results of the VLOOKUP.

  • Utilizing VLOOKUP with INDEX and MATCH

    Pairing VLOOKUP with the INDEX and MATCH functions provides a more flexible and powerful way to match data in Excel, allowing for non-sequential lookups and multi-criteria searches.


Matching data in Excel is essential for maintaining accuracy and consistency in your spreadsheets. The VLOOKUP function is a powerful tool that can help you easily compare and find corresponding data in two different sheets. As with any skill, practice is key to mastering VLOOKUP and becoming proficient in using it for your data analysis needs. So, we encourage you to keep practicing and exploring the capabilities of VLOOKUP to improve your Excel skills.

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