How to Find First Occurrence of a Value in a Column in Excel (5 Ways)

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The article provides some easy methods on how to find the first occurrence of a value in a column in Excel. Sometimes we need to identify duplicate items or data in our Excel sheet. To find them, we need to find the first occurrence of a value in a column. Here we are using a dataset that contains IDs and Names of some guys.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column


How to Find First Occurrence of a Value in a Column in Excel: 5 Ways

1. Using Excel COUNTIF Function to Find First Occurrence of a Value in a Column

Suppose we want to identify the first occurrences of the names in the dataset. If any name occurs twice or more in this dataset, we will mark them as 0s, otherwise, it will be marked as 1. We can do this using the COUNTIF function. Let’s see the process below.

Steps:

  • Make a new column to identify the occurrences and type the following formula in cell D5.
=(COUNTIF($C$5:$C5,$C5)=1)+0

Here, the COUNTIF function keeps returning TRUE until it finds the same name in the column C. We added a 0 (zero) to get the numerical value.

  • Hit ENTER and you will see the output in cell D5.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

  • Use the Fill Handle to AutoFill the lower cells and this operation will mark subsequent occurrences of the names as 0.

Thus you can easily identify the first occurrence of a value in a column.


2. Applying COUNTIFS Function to Find First Occurrence of a Value in a Column

We can also find the first occurrence by this using the COUNTIFS function. Suppose we want to identify the first occurrences of the names in the dataset. If any name occurs twice or more in this dataset, we will mark them as 0s, otherwise, we mark them as 1. Let’s discuss the process below.

Steps:

  • Make a new column to identify the occurrences and type the following formula in cell D5.
=N(COUNTIFS(C$5:C5,C5)=1)

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

Here, the COUNTIFS function keeps returning TRUE until it finds the same name in the column C. The N function converts TRUE or FALSE to 1 or 0 respectively.

  • Hit ENTER and you will see the output in cell D5.

  • Use the Fill Handle to AutoFill the lower cells and this operation will mark subsequent occurrences of the names as 0.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

Thus you can easily identify the first occurrence of a value in a column.


3. Find First Occurrence of a Value in a Column by Utilizing Excel ISNUMBER and MATCH Functions 

Applying the ISNUMBER function along with the MATCH function can be useful to find the first occurrence of a value in a column. Suppose we want to identify the first occurrences of the names in the dataset. If any name occurs twice or more in this dataset, we will mark them as 0s, otherwise, we mark them as 1. Let’s see the procedure below.

Steps:

  • Make a new column to identify the occurrences and type the following formula in cell D5.
=1-ISNUMBER(MATCH(C5,C$4:C4,0))

Here, the MATCH function searches for the value in C5, looks up through the range C4:C4 and returns the position where it finds an exact match. The ISNUMBER function returns TRUE if it finds a numeric value in it, otherwise it returns FALSE even if it has an error in it.

  • Press the ENTER button and you will see the output in cell D5.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

  • Use the Fill Handle to AutoFill the lower cells and this operation will mark subsequent occurrences of the names as 0.

Thus you can easily identify the first occurrence of a value in a column.

Read More: How to Find First Occurrence of a Value in a Range in Excel


4. Finding First Occurrence of a Value by Using Combined Functions 

We can also find the first occurrence of a value or data in a column by combining IF, INDEX, FREQUENCY, MATCH and ROW functions. Suppose we want to identify the first occurrences of the IDs in the dataset. If any ID occurs twice or more in this dataset, we will mark them as 0s, otherwise, we mark them as 1. The formula will be a little bit messy. Let’s go through the description below.

Steps:

  • Make a new column to identify the occurrences and type the following formula in cell D5.
=IF(INDEX(FREQUENCY(IF($B$5:$B$13&"#"&$C$5:$C$13<>"",MATCH("~"&$B$5:$B$13&"#"&$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13&"#"&$C$5:$C$13,0)),ROW($B$5:$B$13)-ROW($B$5)+1),ROWS($B$5:B5))>0,1,0)

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

Here, the IF function returns 1 (TRUE) when it meets the criteria, else it returns 0 (FALSE). The FREQUENCY function determines the number of times a value occurs within a given range of values.

Formula Breakdown

  • ROWS($B$5:B5) —-> Returns
    • Output: 1
  • ROW($B$5:$B$13) —-> Becomes
    • Output: {5;6;7;8;9;10;11;12;13}
  • ROW($B$5) —-> Turns into
    • Output: {5}
  • MATCH(“~”&$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,0) —-> Becomes
    • Output: {1;2;3;4;5;1;7;2;9}
  • IF($B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13<>””,MATCH(“~”&$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,0)) —-> Turns into
  • IF($B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13<>””,{1;2;3;4;5;1;7;2;9}) —-> leaves
    • Output: {1;2;3;4;5;1;7;2;9}
  • FREQUENCY(IF($B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13<>””,MATCH(“~”&$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,0)),ROW($B$5:$B$13)-ROW($B$5)+1) —-> Becomes
  • FREQUENCY(IF{1;2;3;4;5;1;7;2;9}),{5;6;7;8;9;10;11;12;13}-{5}+1) —-> Turns into
    • Output: {2;2;1;1;1;0;1;0;1;0}
  • INDEX(FREQUENCY(IF($B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13<>””,MATCH(“~”&$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,0)),ROW($B$5:$B$13)-ROW($B$5)+1) —-> Returns
  • INDEX({2;2;1;1;1;0;1;0;1;0})
    • Output: {2}
  • IF(INDEX(FREQUENCY(IF($B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13<>””,MATCH(“~”&$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13&”#”&$C$5:$C$13,0)),ROW($B$5:$B$13)-ROW($B$5)+1),ROWS($B$5:B5))>0,1,0) —-> Simplifies to
  • IF({2}>0,1,0)
    • Output: 1

Finally, we get the output as 1 because the ID in cell B5 occurs for the first time.

  • Hit ENTER and you will see the output in cell D5.

  • Use the Fill Handle to AutoFill the lower cells and this operation will mark subsequent occurrences of the names as 0.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

Thus you can easily identify the first occurrence of a value in a column.


5. Using Filter Command to Sort First Occurrences of Values in a Column

Suppose you want to see the repeat times of the names in column D and hence you want to see the position of the first occurrences of these names. We can do this by applying the Filter command. Please go through the description below.

Steps:

  • Make a new column to identify the occurrences and type the following formula in cell D5.
=COUNTIF($C$5:C5,C5)

Here, the COUNTIF function returns the number of times a name occurs in column C.

  • Now, hit ENTER and you will see the output in cell D5.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

  • Use the Fill Handle to AutoFill the lower cells and this operation will mark subsequent occurrences of the names as 0.

Thus you can see the number of times a name occurs in column D.

  • To Filter the first occurrences, select the range B4:D13 and go to Home >> Sort & Filter >> Filter

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

  • Click on the marked arrow in the Match header. Mark 1 and then click OK.

  • After that, you will see all the duplicate IDs removed by the filtering. Only the first occurrences of the IDs will appear.

excel find first occurrence of a value in a column

Thus you can find only the first occurrence and Filter them in a column.

Read More: How to Find Last Occurrence of a Value in a Column in Excel


Practice Section

In the following figure, I give you the dataset that we used in this article so that you can practice these examples on your own.


Download Practice Workbook


Conclusion

In conclusion, the key focus of this article is to provide some easy approaches to find the first occurrences of some given values in a column in Excel. We used pretty basic functions for this purpose. If you have any better methods or ideas or feedback, please leave them in the comment box. This will help me enrich my upcoming articles.


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Meraz Al Nahian
Meraz Al Nahian

Md. Meraz Al Nahian has worked with the ExcelDemy project for over 1.5 years. He wrote 140+ articles for ExcelDemy. He also solved a lot of user problems and worked on dashboards. He is interested in data analysis, advanced Excel, statistics, and dashboards. He also likes to explore various Excel and VBA applications. He completed his graduation in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET). He enjoys exploring Excel-related features to gain efficiency... Read Full Bio

7 Comments
  1. Just wanted to thank you for a simple solution to a problem I was having. Was able to add one of your suggestions to an already complex formula and fix my issue the first time. Thank you for your effort to create articles of this type.

    • Hey Pam, it’s really nice to see you get benefit from my article. It’s also an honor because I work with sincerity for these articles so the readers can have their solutions in the easiest way possible. I appreciate your compliment and also hope that my other articles can be useful for you as well. You are welcome!!!

  2. Hello Nahian,

    Thanks for the solution!

    Is there a way to modify the combined formula to check for the last occurrence of a value in a column?

    I have slightly modified your first occurrence formula to check only one column. Placing a “PO” where the first occurrence of a value in the column.

    =IF(INDEX(FREQUENCY(IF($B$4:$B$500″”,MATCH($B$4:$B$500,$B$4:$B$500,0),0),ROW($B$4:$B$500)-ROW($B$4)+1),ROWS($B$4:B4))>0,”PO”,””)

    • Hi Jason, thanks for reaching out. I’ve used your formula and it returns PO for some values. However, I think I have a better idea for your solution.

      Here, I made a drop down list using the names of the dataset (C5:C13 range). My target is, whenever you select a name, Excel will highlight the cell where the name last appeared.

      Here is the drop down list.

      And here is the formula with XLOOKUP and ROW functions to determine the row of last appearance of the name selected from the drop down list.
      =ROW(XLOOKUP(G4,$C$5:$C$13,$B$5:$B$13,,,-1))

      To highlight the cell with the last occurrence, we need to set a formula for conditional formatting. So select the range of names (C5:C13) and then go to Home >> Conditional Formatting >> New Rule >> Use a formula to determine which cells to format and insert the formula below.
      =ROW()=$G$5
      [caption id="attachment_427897" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Click the image to get a detailed view.[/caption]

      After that, choose a fill color to format the cell and click OK.

      Finally, if you select any name from the drop down, you will see the cell highlighted where the name occurred for the last time in column C.

      Here, we selected Martin from the drop down and you can see that the name Martin appears 3 times in column C. But only the C12 cell is highlighted as it is the last time the name Martin appeared.

      • Figured it out! Thanks again Meraz!

        =IF(ROW(A4)=(ROW(XLOOKUP(B4,$B$4:$B$15,$B$4:$B$15,,,-1))),”PI”,””)

      • Thanks for the quick feedback!

        Xlookup is great for identifying the row in which the last value appears. Based on the application in which I am trying to use it, it’s only one piece of the puzzle (and I can’t figure out where to fit the piece in your original combined formula).

        Looking at the sheet below, I am trying to flag “PI” in column A where the last value appears in column B.

        Row A B
        1 1
        2 1
        3 PI 2
        4 3
        5 4
        6 PI 1
        7 5
        8 PI 5
        9 PI 3
        10 PI 4

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