# Max value with variable column

To retrieve the max value in a set of data, where the column is *variable*, you can use INDEX and MATCH together with the MAX function. In the example shown the formula in J5 is:

where **data** (B5:F15) and **header** (B4:F4) are named ranges.

Note: If you are new to INDEX and MATCH, see: How to use INDEX and MATCH

In a standard configuration, the INDEX function retrieves a value at a given row and column. For example, to get the value at row 2 and column 3 in a given range:

=INDEX(range,2,3) // get value at row 2, column 3

However, INDEX has a special trick – the ability to retrieve *entire* columns and rows. The syntax involves supplying zero for the "other" argument. If you want an entire column, you supply *row* as zero. If you want an entire row, you supply* column* as zero:

In the example shown, we want to find the maximum value in a given column. The twist is that the column needs to be variable so it can be easily changed. In F5, the formula is:

Working from the inside out, we first use the MATCH function to get the "index" of the column requested in cell J4:

MATCH(J4,header,0) // get column index

With "Green" in J4, the MATCH function returns 3, since Green is the third value in the named range **header**. After MATCH returns a result, the formula can be simplified to this:

With zero provided as the* row_number*, INDEX returns all values in column 3 of the named range **data. **The result is returned to the MAX function in an array like this:` `

=MAX({83;54;35;17;85;16;70;72;65;93;91})

And MAX returns the final result, 93.

### Minimum value

To get the *minimum* value with a variable column, you can simply replace the MAX function with the MIN function. The formula in J6 is:

### With FILTER

The new FILTER function can also be used to solve this problem, since FILTER can filter data by row or by column. The trick is to construct a logical filter that will exclude other columns. COUNTIF works well in this case, but it must be configured "backwards", with J4 as the *range*, and **header** for *criteria*:

After COUNTIF runs, we have:

And FILTER delivers the 3rd column to MAX, same as the INDEX function above.

As an alternative to COUNTIF, you can use ISNUMBER + MATCH instead:

The MATCH function is again set up "backwards", so that we get an array with 5 values that will serve as the logical filter. After ISNUMBER and MATCH run, we have:

And FILTER again delivers the 3rd column to MAX.

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