How to Compare Two Lists in Excel

When analyzing data you often have to compare two lists to see if

  • They both contain the same data
  • You’re missing data from one of the lists
  • There are any duplicates or misspellings
  • etc..

If you’re looking to compare two lists for equality, you can use simple comparison operators.

compare lists excel

By turning column C into a helper column, we can compare the lists in A and B by simply typing

  1. =A2=B2

and auto-filling that formula down the column. As you can see this works for text, numbers, and dates the same way.

If you need to check to see if certain values exist or not in the other list, I’d suggest using ISNUMBER and MATCH together to find your answers.

Let’s separate the two columns for a second and add some additional values to List #2:

compare lists excel_2

We’re going to do a check to see which values in List 2 are in List 1.

We’ll create a helper column in Column D and first use the MATCH function to return the ROW that a match exists on, if any.

compare lists excel_3

  1. =MATCH(C2,A:A,0)

Excel searches for each of the values in column C inside of column A. The numbers returned are the ROW in column A where a match was found, while #N/A simply means there was no match found.

By wrapping this function in the ISNUMBER function, we can simplify this to only return TRUE (if a row number is found) or FALSE (error, no match).

compare lists excel_4


We can now see exactly which values exist in both List 1 and List 2.

ISNUMBER – Excel Function

What it does: The ISNUMBER() function checks to see whether the given argument is a number.

Plain English: The ISNUMBER literally tests to see if a given value is a number. The function is very useful to test the results of other functions whose results may or may not be numbers. For instance, FIND(), MATCH(), SEARCH(), and many other excel functions can return a numeric value. Often times, what is more important is not so much the number spat out of these equations, but whether or not they return a number at all.

Arguments: ISNUMBER(value)

  • Value – The value you want to check. The result is a Boolean value – either TRUE or FALSE.

Blog Posts using ISNUMBER()

  • Blog Post 1

Videos using ISNUMBER()

  • Video 1