Return to Excel Formulas List

VLOOKUP – Dynamic Column Reference – Excel & Google Sheets

Download Example Workbook

Download the example workbook

This tutorial will demonstrate how to perform a VLOOKUP with a dynamic column references using the VLOOKUP and MATCH Functions in Excel and Google Sheets. If you have access to the XLOOKUP Function, we recommend using a Dynamic XLOOKUP instead.

VLOOKUP Dynamic Column Reference Main

VLOOKUP Row and Column Coordinates

In general, all lookup processes require at least two things: the row and column coordinates of the value that will be looked up. With VLOOKUP, the row coordinate is determined by finding the lookup_value in the table_array. The col_index (3rd argument) provides column coordinate.

VLOOKUP Dynamic Column Reference 01

VLOOKUP with Match Function

Typically, we use the VLOOKUP Function with a constant column index number (as shown above). Instead, we can use a MATCH Function to calculate the column number.

VLOOKUP Dynamic Column Reference 02

Let’s walkthrough the formula:

Match Function

First, use the MATCH Function to look up the correct column number.

VLOOKUP-Dynamic Column Reference 03

Here we look up “February” in row 2 and find that “February” is found in the 3rd column of the table.

VLOOKUP Function

Next, we’ll use the result of the MATCH Function as the input for the column index of the VLOOKUP Function:

VLOOKUP Dynamic Column Reference 04

Putting this all together, we get our original formula:

In summary, the formula performs two lookups, which are in vertical and horizontal directions: one from VLOOKUP (vertical lookup) and another from the MATCH Function (horizontal lookup); hence, it’s called a two-way lookup. An alternative to this formula is the INDEX-MATCH-MATCH combination.

 

VLOOKUP-MATCH in Google Sheets

The VLOOKUP-MATCH formula works the same way in Google Sheets.

VLOOKUP Dynamic Column Reference GSheet