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Lookup values in descending order

Author: Amanda Li Last Modified: 2021-11-05

If you have a table where values are listed in descending order, while you need to lookup a specific value from the table. The scenario is perfect for you to use the INDEX and MATCH functions.

lookup values descending 1

How to lookup values in descending order with INDEX and MATCH?

To find out the student whose score is closest (greater than or equal) to 90 from the table where score values are sorted in descending order as shown in the screenshot above, the INDEX and MATCH functions will help you in this way: INDEX will locate the row according to the lookup value, and INDEX will then retrieve the data on the same row.

Generic syntax


  • return_range: The range where you want the combination formula to return the student’s name from. Here refers to the name range.
  • lookup_value: The value MATCH used to locate its position. Here refers to the given score.
  • lookup_array: The range of cells with the values to compare with the lookup_value. Here refers to the score range. The values in the lookup_array must be placed in descending order.
  • match_type -1: Forces MATCH to find the smallest value that is greater than or equal to the lookup_value.

To find the student whose score is closest (greater than or equal) to 90 from the table where score values are sorted in descending order, please copy or enter the formula below in the cell F6, and press Enter to get the result:


Or, use a cell reference to make the formula dynamic:


lookup values descending 2

Explanation of the formula


  • MATCH(F5,C5:C11,-1): The match_type -1 forces the MATCH function to find the value that is closest (greater than or equal) to the given score 90 (the value in the cell F5) in the score range C5:C11. So, the function will return 3 since the match value is at the 3rd position in the range. (Note that the match_type -1 needs the values in the range C5:C11 to be placed in descending order.)
  • INDEX(B5:B11,MATCH(F5,C5:C11,-1)) = INDEX(B5:B11,3): The INDEX function returns the 3rd value in the name range B5:B11, which is Samantha.

Related functions

Excel INDEX function

The Excel INDEX function returns the displayed value based on a given position from a range or an array.

Excel MATCH function

The Excel MATCH function searches for a specific value in a range of cells, and returns the relative position of the value.

Related Formulas

Approximate match with INDEX and MATCH

There are times when we need to find approximate matches in Excel to evaluate employees' performance, grade students’ scores, calculate postage based on weight, etc. In this tutorial, we will talk about how to use the INDEX and MATCH functions to retrieve the results we need.

Locate maximum value in a range

There are cases when you need to locate the position of the maximum value in a list, table or row in Excel. In this tutorial, we will discuss the approach to accomplish the task with the MAX and MATCH functions.

Lookup next largest match with INDEX and MATCH

To find the next largest match number, or we say the smallest value that is greater than or equal to the specific number in a range of numeric values in Excel, you can use an INDEX and MATCH formula with -1 as the match type.

Lookup closest match value with multiple criteria

In some cases, you may need to lookup the closest or approximate match value based on more than one criteria. With the combination of INDEX, MATCH and IF functions, you can quickly get it done in Excel.

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Comments (2)
Rated 5 out of 5 · 1 ratings
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
@shadeburst - I suspect you have the range lookup argument set to exact. If that's the case, the table array doesn't need to be sorted at all.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
I've been using VLOOKUP on a range sorted descending, for years, without error. That's because the ISO paper sizes we use run from A0 to A6, but I want the range sorted from smallest to largest i.e. A6 to A0 for use elsewhere.

As an experiment I expanded the range from 7 rows to thirty - works fine. What on earth is going on here? :) :)
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