I am trying to find the largest and the second largest value in a row from my shapefield table. The largest is easy to find with the max() expression. The second largest is quite easy to find in Python via:

print a[-2]

If I use the same code in the field calculator I get the message that VALUE_1 is not defined. But I stated the input in the expression.

enter image description here

  • Can you screenshot your field calculator input? Hard to debug without seeing it.
    – Dùn Caan
    May 9, 2017 at 14:30
  • I have updated my answer to include multiple columns or multiple rows
    – Midavalo
    May 9, 2017 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


You can use a Search Cursor to find the values in your field, and then return the two highest values through the Field Calculator

In the Pre-logic script code:

vals = []
with arcpy.da.SearchCursor("testPoint", ['intfield']) as cursor:
    for row in cursor:

def maxvals(fieldval):
    global vals
    if fieldval in vals:
        if fieldval in [vals[-1], vals[-2]] :
            return fieldval

And in the expression:

maxvals( !intfield!)

Where !intfield! is the name of the field you want to search in, and "testPoint" is the name of your layer

In Field Calculator window:
enter image description here

In Calculate Field geoprocessing tool:
enter image description here

And the result:
enter image description here

Upon re-reading your question, it sounds like you want to look across multiple fields to find the max and next values.

Max Value Pre-logic code:

def maxnum(fields):
    return fields[-1]

Second-max Value Pre-logic code:

def maxnum(fields):
    return fields[-2]


maxnum([!intfield!, !intfield2!, !intfield3!, !intfield4!])

Pass your fields as a list here in your expression.

Field Calculator window:
enter image description here

Calculate Field:
enter image description here

enter image description here


You need to change your codeblock to something like:

def a(VALUE_1,VALUE_2,VALUE_3):
    vals = [VALUE_1,VALUE_2,VALUE_3]
    return vals[0]

It would be better practice to rewrite the expression as something like:


And change your codeblock to:

def getMax(VALUE_1,VALUE_2,VALUE_3):
        vals = [VALUE_1,VALUE_2,VALUE_3]
        return vals[0]

Bear in mind this only returns the max value, if you want the second largest value, use return vals[1], or if you want the sum of the largest and second largest, use return vals[0] + vals[1]

  • 1
    Just realised Midavolo's answer includes a slightly more concise version of this answer - use that!
    – Dùn Caan
    May 9, 2017 at 15:05

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