Understanding Excel IF statements is crucial to get the most out of any spreadsheet.
These formulas are one of Excel’s most powerful functionalities when used correctly and form the foundation for many workbook structures. They allow the user to set a command based on a specific condition – i.e. if one thing is true then complete this action; if not, then complete another action.
The Excel IF statements function works in the same way as a simple ‘yes or no’ statement and outcome. For example, if it is cold outside then I will wear a coat; but if it isn’t cold outside then I won’t wear a coat.
While the concept is relatively simple, applying it to large data sets can prove to be quite challenging, particularly for users who have no prior experience dealing with Excel functions. In fact, we find that IF statements are often the main cause of many data management problems facing businesses today.
Let’s take a closer look at creating IF statements in Excel, including a few different variations and some of the issues that may crop up.
How to create IF statements in Excel
The principal formula for an IF statement is: =IF(logic_test, value_if true, value_if_false)
As you can see, IF statements have three main parameters: logical_test, value_if true and value_if false. Logical_test states a condition. Value_if true sets an affirmative answer. Value_if false sets an alternative answer.
Nested IF statements
Nested IF statements are used when a user needs to test more than one condition at once and then choose between a larger set of defined actions. The idea is to ‘nest’ multiple actions together as part of one formula.
One thing to look out for with nested IF formulas is that they can end up being quite difficult to read and organise efficiently. If you’re having trouble nesting your own IF statements, it’s worth seeking the support of a professional rather than building an unstable workbook structure.
VLOOKUP IF statements
A VLOOKUP function can be used to search across an entire dataset to pinpoint a specific value quickly; however, normally a user can only search for one lookup value at a time.
By combining VLOOKUP with nested IF statements, a user can search for multiple conditions at once. This offers a far more efficient solution for those who need to find information based on more than one criteria.
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