While using the VLOOKUP function in Excel, we sometimes need to apply it to a range. This is possible by using an absolute cell reference. In this tutorial, we will learn how to quickly copy a VLOOKUP formula down a column.
Figure 1. Final result
Syntax of the VLOOKUP formula
The generic formula for the VLOOKUP function is:
=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 a table_array
- table_array – a range in which we want to lookup
- col_index_num – a column number in table_array 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
Figure 2. Data that we will use in the example
Let’s start with examining the structure of the data that we will use.
In the range B2:C7 we have the result table, while in the range E2:F7 we have the lookup table. Both tables consist of “Product ID” (columns B and E) and “Product Description” (columns C and F).
Get the Product description using VLOOKUP
Our goal is to obtain data from the “Product Description” column in the second table and populate it into the same column of the 1st table. This will be done based on each corresponding Product.
In our example, the lookup_value is the individual cell in “Product ID” column. The parameter table_array is $E$3:$F$7 because we want to find value from the range B3:B7. 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, because we want to find an exact match of “Product ID” values.
Figure 3. Using the VLOOKUP function in the single cell
As a result, we will get Product C in the cell B3. As we can see, the value of “Product ID” in B3 in the 1st table is 1003, while in the 2nd table Product description for 1003 is Product C. The function pulls this value and returns it to the 1st table (cell C3) as a result.
Copying a VLOOKUP Formula using Absolute Cell References
The most important thing when copying the formula down a column is to understand the difference between relative and absolute cell reference. Excel uses relative cell reference when copying the formula to another cell. In our case, if we copy the formula from the cell B3 to the C3, the parameter lookup_value (B3) will be changed to C3. This is ok because we want to find a Product description for all the cells from the range. On the other hand, we want our VLOOKUP table (E3:F7) to be always the same while copying the formula. Here we must use the absolute cell reference and put $ sign before rows and columns in the range ($E$3:$F$7).
To copy the formula down a column, we need to follow these steps:
- Select cell C3 and click on it
- Insert the formula:
- Press enter
- Drag the formula down to the other cells in the column by clicking and dragging the little “+” icon at the bottom-right of the cell.
Figure 4. Copying the VLOOKUP function to the entire column
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