Normally, the VLOOKUP function returns the first match it finds. But the matter gets complicated when there more than one match and we want to get any specific occurrence, say 2nd match.
In this article, we will learn how to get second, third or Nth match using VLOOKUP. To achieve this we will need to use a helper column. If you don't want to use a helper column as it is not feasible with every data, you can use the INDEX-MATCH approach. But if you can use a helper column, here's the generic formula to find Nth match using VLOOKUP Function.
Lookup_value: It is the lookup value that you want to look for.
Occurrence: The occurrence of lookup value that you want to match.
Table_array: It is the table array in which you want to look for data. Make sure that the first column in this table is the helper column.
Column: The column number in the table array from which you want to retrieve the value.
0: It is for an exact match. If you don't want to do an exact match, omit it or use 1 or TRUE.
Now let's use it in an example:
We have a table that records sales done by salesmen in different months. The names of the salesmen can repeat in the record. We need to match the 2nd occurrence of Micky and then get Jan's sales.
Note that, we have added a helper column. This column writes the name of the salesman and then concatenates the occurrence of that name to it. We have used the running count to get the occurrence.
The formula in helper column is:
So, we have the table ready. Here the lookup value is in cell P3, the occurrence number is in Q3, the table array is A3:N10 and the column number is 3.
Now write this formula in cell P4:
Hit enter, and bam! you have your lookup value of the occurrence you needed.
How does it work?
The functionality is simple. Initially, we don't have any unique id to use as a lookup value. So we create one. We use the name and running count formula to create a unique ID. We make sure that it is first column in the table from left as we are going to use to retrieve values from columns right to it.
Now the lookup formula creates the unique id using concatenate operator & ( P3&Q3). This makes it a unique Id
Next, the VLOOKUP formula takes this as lookup value and looks for its location in table A3:N10. Here, VLOOKUP finds the value in 6th row of the table. Now it moves to the 3rd column and returns the value.
This is the easiest way to get the Nth match in Excel. But it is not feasible all the time. It adds extra data and calculations to the sheet that can make the excel file heavy and slow.
If you have a small amount of data, this is great but with large data, you may want to use an independent formula that does not need helper column. In that case, you can use an array formula that uses INDEX and MATCH functions.
So yeah guys, this how you can get the Nth match in Excel using VLOOKUP function. I hope I was explanatory enough and it was helpful. If you have any doubts regarding this article or any other excel/VBA related topic, ask in the comments section below.
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