How to Use the INDEX MATCH Function in Excel

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INDEX and MATCH are two functions in Excel that can be combined together to perform advanced lookups. It is a powerful duo of functions that generally overcomes all the limitations of the VLOOKUP function, i.e., unlike VLOOKUP, INDEX MATCH does not require the lookup value being in the first column.

This allows you to lookup in the columns left to the lookup value which is not possible with VLOOKUP. INDEX MATCH uses a dynamic reference which leads to fewer errors than a static column reference used by VLOOKUP leading to more errors. VLOOKUP breaks if you insert/delete new columns, whereas INDEX MATCH handles insertion/deletion well because of the dynamic reference.

How to Use INDEX MATCH Function

To use the INDEX MATCH function in Excel, you have to nest the MATCH function inside the INDEX function. It follows the syntax.=INDEX(range, MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_range, match_type)). It is important to realize that INDEX MATCH isn’t actually a standalone function, but rather a combination of Excel’s INDEX and MATCH functions.

The INDEX Function

The INDEX function in Excel returns a value at a cell from a table or range. Given the row and column numbers, It extracts the values from the table or range. Index follows the structure =INDEX (array, row_num, [col_num], [area_num]).

In this example, the formula =INDEX(A2:B7,4,2) in cell E2 returns a reference to row 4 of the range A2:B7, resulting in cell B5. This contains the entry 7.

The MATCH Function

The MATCH function in Excel looks up for a value in a table or array and returns the relative position of the lookup value.

Assigning the formula =MATCH(E2, A2:A7, 0) to cell E3 returns the relative position of the lookup value Brussels which is 4. MATCH performs an exact match here as the match_typeis set to 0.

How to nest a MATCH function in an INDEX Function

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to show how INDEX and MATCH work together.

The MATCH function determines the relative position of the lookup value in the specified range of cells. From there, the INDEX function takes that number, or numbers, and returns a value in the corresponding cell. Combined together, The INDEX and MATCH functions look like:

=INDEX(range, MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_range, match_type))

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here. First, you call INDEX on a range of numbers from which you look up the value. Then, MATCH tells Excel how many cells it should count into INDEX’s range, based on a given value matched against a separate array.

Let’s look at an example that has INDEX and MATCH in action. Assign the formula =INDEX(C2:C8,MATCH(E2,B2:B8,0)) in cell F2, and it will return the Dept. Logistics for the employee Gene Wagner.

Now, let’s analyze what each component of this formula actually does:

  • The MATCH function searches for the lookup value Gene Wagner in column B, more precisely cells B2:B8, and returns the number 5, because Gene Wagner is the fifth in the list.
  • The INDEX functions takes 5 in the second parameter (row_num), which indicates which row you want to return a value from, and turns into a simple =INDEX($C$2:$C$8,5)Translated into plain English, the formula reads: search in cells C2 through C8 and return a value of the cell in the 5th row, i.e., cell C6, because you start counting from the second row.

Using INDEX and MATCH is a great way for lookup in Excel. It overcomes the limitations of VLOOKUP and allows calculation with greater efficiency and speed.