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Self-contained VLOOKUP

Excel allows a user to specify a self-contained lookup table for VLOOKUP function. Instead of passing a table from the Sheet to the VLOOKUP, we can put a range directly in the function. This step by step tutorial will assist all levels of Excel users in creating the self-contained VLOOKUP function.

Figure 1. The result of the self-contained VLOOKUP function

Syntax of the VLOOKUP Formula

The generic formula of VLOOKUP looks like:

=VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, col_index_num, range_lookup)

The parameters of the VLOOKUP function are:

  • lookup_value – a value that we want to find in the VLOOKUP table
  • table_array – a range in which we want to lookup
  • col_index_num – a column number from which we would like to pull a value
  • range_lookup – default value 0. This means that we want to find an exact match for a lookup value.

Setting up Our Data for the Self-contained VLOOKUP Function

Let’s look at the structure of the data we will use. In the range B2:C7 we have the table from which we want to pull data. Column B has “Product ID” and column C has “Product Description”. In the cell F2, we have a lookup value, while in the cell F3 we want to get a Product description, based on the Product ID

Instead of linking the range B2:C7 in the formula, we will put these values directly to the table_array parameter of the function.

Figure 2. Data structure for the self-contained VLOOKUP

Using the Self-contained VLOOKUP function

In our example, we want to get get the Product description based on Product ID in F2 (1003). Instead of putting the table in the function, we will put the values from the table.

The formula looks like:

=VLOOKUP(F2, {1001,"Product A";1002,"Product B";1003,"Product C";1004,"Product D";1005,"Product E"}, 2)

The lookup_value is the cell F2. The parameter table_array is {1001,”Product A”;1002,”Product B”;1003,”Product C”;1004,”Product D”;1005,”Product E”}, which are all values from the table B2:C7. The values in a row are separated by comma and rows are separated by a semicolon. Col_index_num has value 2, as we want to pull value from the second column of the range. Finally, range_lookup has value 0 by default, because we want to find an exact match of “Lookup column” values.

To apply the self-contained VLOOKUP, we need to follow these steps:

  • Select cell F3 and click on it
  • Insert the formula: =VLOOKUP(F2, {1001,"Product A";1002,"Product B";1003,"Product C";1004,"Product D";1005,"Product E"}, 2)
  • Press enter

Figure 3. Application of the self-contained VLOOKUP formula

As a result, we will get “Product C” in the cell F3. We can see in the VLOOKUP table that this is the product description for product ID 1003.

Most of the time, the problem you will need to solve will be more complex than a simple application of a formula or function. If you want to save hours of research and frustration, try our live Excelchat service! Our Excel Experts are available 24/7 to answer any Excel question you may have. We guarantee a connection within 30 seconds and a customized solution within 20 minutes.

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