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Compare Lists in Excel - MATCH Function
MATCH is a useful Excel function to compare lists
February 19, 2006
Paul Jacobs
You have two or more lists in Excel and you want to find out whether a value in one list exists in another. The MATCH function is what you're in need of.
The MATCH function accepts 3 parameters: (1) lookup_value; this is the value you want to find. (2) lookup_array; this is the list that you want to search through. (3) match_type; this is optional and specifies if you want an exact match or a less/greater than match.

MATCH will try to find the lookup_value you specify in the list you specify (lookup_array) and return the relative position in the list if it finds a match. The relative position means that if your list starts at A5 and the MATCH function finds a match with the first value in your list, it will return a 1 not a 5. So it doesn't return the row it found the match in, just the position within the list.

Match Type
In my experience, unless you're working with numbers then you will usually want to set match_type to 0, which means only find exact matches. If you're trying to match text then this is your best bet.

Another thing to note is that MATCH will return the relative position of the first match it finds, so if you have duplicate values in the list, MATCH will only return the position of the first one.

Figure 1: MATCH function in Excel
Figure 1: MATCH function in Excel
Figure 1 shows a spreadsheet with two lists (List 1 & List 2). The formula for cell E3 in the Match? column is =MATCH(D3,B$3:B$8,0). This tells Excel to lookup the value in D3 (Kiwi) and check to see if it is in List 1 which goes from B3 to B8. In this case it doesn't find a match so it returns #N/A.

However, in this example it does find two matches, Lime and Orange at positions 6 and 2 in the list. The formula in cell E5 is =MATCH(D5,B$3:B$8,0) which does find a match and returns a 6.

Hint: Make sure you include the $ when specifying the list to look in, in this case B$3:B$8. This will keep Excel from automatically changing the list when you copy and paste the formula to find the other values in List 2.

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