ISREF Formula


To start off, the ISREF formula in Excel is a reference-checking function. It verifies whether a value is a valid cell reference or not.


The ISREF formula essentially serves to identify if the content of a cell is a reference. This can be immensely useful when creating complex formulas or data structures in Excel, especially when you’re dealing with dynamic ranges.


The syntax for the ISREF formula is quite simple:



The ISREF formula only takes a single parameter – ‘value’. This ‘value’ is what you’re checking to see if it’s a valid cell reference.


ISREF returns TRUE if the ‘value’ is a valid reference, and FALSE if it’s not.

Usage notes

ISREF is not usually used by itself but as part of larger, more complicated formulas. Do note that it also returns TRUE for named ranges.


For all Excel users out there, the ISREF formula is available across all versions of Excel.

Example #1

For our first example, if cell A1 contains the value ‘B2’, then the formula:


will return FALSE, because ‘B2’ is merely a text string in this context, not a valid reference.

Example #2

In our second example, suppose we use the INDIRECT function to convert the text string ‘B2’ in cell A1 into a reference. Then, the ISREF formula:


will return TRUE, as INDIRECT(A1) is a valid reference.

Example #3

For our third example, let’s say cell C3 is empty. The ISREF formula:


will return TRUE since an empty cell is considered a valid reference.

Example #4

In this example, let’s try using a named range. We name cells D1:D3 as ‘Data’. Now, the ISREF formula:


returns TRUE, as ‘Data’ is a valid reference.

Example #5

In our final example, let’s suppose we have a text string ‘Excel’ in cell E1. The ISREF formula:


will return TRUE since ‘E1’ is a valid cell reference, regardless of its content.

Tips and tricks

To make the most of ISREF, use it in combination with other functions like INDIRECT and VLOOKUP for advanced Excel functions and data analysis.


ISREF only checks if the value is a reference. It doesn’t validate if the reference itself is valid or existing.

Common errors and solutions

A common error is misunderstanding what constitutes a reference. Text strings are not considered references unless used with functions like INDIRECT.

Best Practices

When using ISREF, always ensure you understand the data you’re working with. Combining ISREF with other functions can give powerful results.

List of Related functions

ISREF relates to other Excel functions like ISNUMBER, ISTEXT, ISNONTEXT, ISLOGICAL, ISERROR, and ISNA.

Frequently Used with the formulas

ISREF works well with functions like INDIRECTVLOOKUP, and INDEX to build more advanced formulas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can the ISREF function handle named ranges?

Yes, ISREF can handle named ranges and it will return TRUE if the named range exists.

Q. Does ISREF return TRUE for error values?

No, ISREF will return FALSE for cells containing error values.

Q. Can I use ISREF to check if a reference is valid in a different workbook?

Yes, as long as the other workbook is open. If the workbook is closed, ISREF will return FALSE.

Q. Does ISREF return TRUE for an empty cell?

Yes, an empty cell is still considered a valid cell reference and ISREF will return TRUE.

Q. Can ISREF return an error?

No, ISREF always returns either TRUE or FALSE. It doesn’t return any error values.

With this comprehensive tutorial, you now have a good understanding of the ISREF formula in Excel. Use it wisely to validate references and create robust data models in your spreadsheets!


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