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INDEX Function

Get the value at a given position in a range or array

What is the INDEX Function?

The INDEX function is categorized under Lookup and Reference functions. The function will return the value at a given position in a range or array. The INDEX function is often used with the MATCH function. We can say it is an alternative way to do VLOOKUP.

As a financial analyst, INDEX can be used in other forms of analysis besides looking up a value in a list or table. In financial analysis, we can use it along with other functions, for lookup and return the sum of a column.

There are two formats for the INDEX function:

  1. Array format
  2. Reference format

 

The Array format of the INDEX Function

The array format is used when we wish to return the value of a specified cell or array of cells.

 

Formula

=INDEX(array, row_num, [col_num])

 

The function uses the following arguments:

  1. Array (required argument) – It is the specified array or range of cells.
  2. Row_num (required argument) – It denotes the row number of the specified array. When the argument is set to zero or blank, it will default to all rows in the array provided.
  3. Col_num (optional argument) – It denotes the column number of the specified array. When this argument is set to zero or blank, it will default to all rows in the array provided.

 

The Reference format of the INDEX Function

The reference format is used when we wish to return the reference of the cell at the intersection row_num and col_num.

 

Formula

=INDEX(reference, row_num, [column_num], [area_num])

 

The function uses the following arguments:

  1. Reference (required argument) – It is a reference to one or more cells. If we input multiple areas directly into the function, individual areas should be separated by commas and surrounded by brackets. Such as (A1:B2, C3:D4), etc.
  2. Row_num (required argument) – It denotes the row number of a specified area. When the argument is set to zero or blank, it will default to all rows in the array provided.
  3. Col_num (optional argument) – It denotes the column number of the specified array. When the argument is set to zero or blank, it will default to all rows in the array provided.
  4. Area_num (optional argument) – If the reference is supplied as multiple ranges, area_num indicates which range to use. Areas are numbered by the order they are specified.

If the area_num argument is omitted, it defaults to the value 1 (i.e., the reference is taken from the first area in the supplied range).

 

How to use the INDEX Function in Excel?

To understand the uses of the function, let us consider a few examples:

 

Example 1

We are given the following data and we wish to match the location of a value.

 

INDEX Function

 

In the table above, we wish to see the distance covered by William. The formula to use will be:

 

INDEX Function - Example 1

 

We get the result below:

 

INDEX Function - Example 1a

 

Example 2

Now let’s see how to use the MATCH and INDEX functions at the same time. Suppose we are given the following data:

 

INDEX Function - Example 2

 

Suppose we wish to find out Georgia’s rank in the Ease of Doing Business category. We will use the following formula:

 

INDEX Function - Example 2a

 

Here, the MATCH function will look up for Georgia and return number 10 as Georgia is 10 on the list. The INDEX function takes “10” in the second parameter (row_num), which indicates which row we wish to return a value from and turns into a simple =INDEX($C$2:$C$11,3).

We get the result below:

 

INDEX Function - Example 2b

 

Things to remember about the INDEX Function

  1. #VALUE! error – Occurs when any of the given row_num, col_num or area_num arguments are non-numeric.
  2. #REF! error – Occurs due to either of the following reasons:
    • The given row_num argument is greater than the number of rows in the given range;
    • The given [col_num] argument is greater than the number of columns in the range provided; or
    • The given [area_num] argument is more than the number of areas in the supplied range.
  3. VLOOKUP vs. INDEX function
    • Excel VLOOKUP is unable to look to its left, meaning that our lookup value should always reside in the left-most column of the lookup range. This is not the case with the INDEX and MATCH functions.
    • VLOOKUP formulas get broken or return incorrect results when a new column is deleted from or added to a lookup table. With INDEX and MATCH, we can delete or insert new columns in your lookup table without distorting the results.

 

Click here to download the sample Excel file

 

Additional resources

Thanks for reading CFI’s guide to important Excel functions! By taking the time to learn and master these functions, you’ll significantly speed up your financial analysis. To learn more, check out these additional resources:

  • Advanced Excel Formulas Course
  • Advanced Excel Formulas You Must Know
  • Excel Shortcuts for PC and Mac
  • Financial Analyst Program

Free Excel Tutorial

To master the art of Excel, check out CFI’s FREE Excel Crash Course, which teaches you how to become an Excel power user.  Learn the most important formulas, functions, and shortcuts to become confident in your financial analysis.

 

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