I recently pulled together an Excel session to go through the fundamentals of the IF, VLOOKUP, INDEX and MATCH functions.  To do this I started out by putting together a bit of an explanation and then recording, with sample data, how these functions can be used and common pitfalls.  This is the first session.

Part 1 IF

The IF function can allow you to interrogate the information in a cell or cells and then instruct the programme to return a response, which can be text a number, a cell reference, another function or a calculation. 

It sounds rather complex, another way to think about it might be to set yourself a problem for example If the total cost of a project exceeds £3m then I should abandon it otherwise I will go ahead.  How does this look when written out?


·         =IF(A1>3000000,”Abandon”,”Proceed”)

·         The =IF tells the programme what function you are using

·         All functions are enclosed in brackets ()

·         A1 is where to figure for the total cost is found, this could be replaced with multiple cell references in a calculation eg A1+B3-F5, depending upon where the data is.

·         The > symbol tells the programme that the if A1 is bigger than 3000000, effectively setting the criteria for what follows.  This could be less than <, equal to =, less than or equal to <= or greater than or equal to >=.

·         The 3000000 is your limit and can be adjusted as you see fit.

·          “Abandon” is what you want the programme to return if your criteria is met, in this case the cost of the project will exceed £3m.

·         “Proceed” is what you want the programme to return if your criteria is not met ie if the project does not cost more than £3m.


Now all of the above elements of the function in the brackets can be replaced with references to cells eg =IF(A1>H3,J7,K9)  the cells referred to will contain pre-written text/figures which the programme can then use to produce the results.

The best way to get to grips with this is to do it so watch the video below and then have a go using some data that you have.  Try to think about things in terms of asking a yes/no or true/false question of your data and then what answer you would then give to reflect those outcomes.

Things cat get really complicated when, instead of false or no you ask a further question and so on.  then we get into the realms of multiple nested IF functions, fun?  Maybe another time...


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