How index funds track the market?

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Index funds provide a relatively cost-effective way to invest in the stock market. These funds aim to replicate the performance of a specific market index, subject to tracking error, offering investors exposure to a diversified portfolio of stocks without the need for active management. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore how index funds track the market, debunk common misconceptions, compare them with actively managed funds, and delve into their mechanism in detail.

  • Table of contents
  1. Understanding market indices
  2. Mechanism of index funds
  3. Common misconceptions about index funds
  4. Comparison with actively managed funds
  5. How index fund track market?
  6. FAQ

Understanding market indices

Before diving into how index funds track the market, it's crucial to understand the role of market indices. Market indices, such as the Nifty 50 in India, are benchmarks that represent a basket of stocks selected based on various criteria. For example, the Nifty 50 index represents the top 50 stocks in India by market capitalisation. Various indices serve as a barometer for the overall performance of the stock market or a specific sector and are used by investors and fund managers to gauge market trends.

Mechanism of index funds

Index funds replicate the composition and performance of a specific market index by investing in the same stocks in the same proportion as the index. Unlike actively managed funds, which rely on the expertise of fund managers to select and manage investments, index funds passively track the underlying index, subject to tracking error.

The fund manager of an index fund aims to match the returns of the target index rather than outperforming it. This is potentially achieved by holding a portfolio of stocks that closely mirrors the composition of the index in the same proportion as held in the index. Thus, index funds pool money from investors and use it to passively buy and hold the same stocks in the same proportions as the chosen index. Investing in an index fund is like owning a tiny slice of every company in the benchmark index.

Common misconceptions about index funds

There are several misconceptions surrounding index funds that need to be addressed:

Limited returns: Some investors believe that index funds offer a limited return potential compared to actively managed funds. However, research has shown that index funds can deliver a competitive return potential over the long term as per the underlying benchmark index by closely tracking the performance of the underlying index.

Lack of diversification: Another misconception is that index funds lack diversification since they replicate a specific market index. In reality, many index funds provide diversification by investing in a broad range of stocks across various sectors, replicating the composition of the benchmark index.

High costs: There is a common misconception that index funds are expensive to invest in. In fact, index funds typically have lower expense ratios compared to actively managed funds, making them a relatively cost-effective investment option for investors.

They're all the same: Different index funds track different indices, offering exposure to various market segments like specific sectors or segments.

Comparison with actively managed funds

Index funds differ from actively managed funds in several key aspects. While actively managed funds aim to beat the market through active stock selection and market timing, index funds passively track a market index. Since fund managers play an active role, actively managed funds often involve relatively higher expenses. However, passively managed index funds are comparatively more cost effective.

How index fund track market?

Index funds track the market by investing in the same stocks as the underlying index and weighting them according to the index methodology, subject to tracking error. There are two primary methods that index funds use to replicate the index's performance:

Full replication: For smaller indices with fewer holdings, the fund simply buys all the underlying stocks in the exact same percentages as the index.

Sampling: For larger indices with hundreds of stocks, the fund might strategically pick a representative sample to track, ensuring it closely reflects the overall performance of the index.


Index funds offer investors a convenient and relatively cost-effective way to gain exposure to the broader market. By closely tracking a specific market index, these funds provide diversification and a competitive return potential over the long term. Understanding how index funds track the market can help investors make informed decisions when building their investment portfolios.


What are the types of index funds?
A: In India, index funds include broad market, sectoral, thematic, international, smart beta, multi-asset, and custom index funds. These funds track various indices like Nifty 50, sector-specific indices, and global indices, offering investors diversified exposure to different market segments and investment themes.

How can I choose the right index fund for investing?
A. Choosing the right index fund for investing depends on individual objectives and risk tolerance.

How to track market with index fund?
A: An index fund's performance closely mirrors the index it follows, like the Nifty 50 or BSE Sensex, subject to tracking error. Investors can monitor their index fund's performance by comparing its returns against the corresponding index. This provides a clear picture of how the market, and thus their investment, is performing over time.

Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.
This document should not be treated as endorsement of the views/opinions or as investment advice. This document should not be construed as a research report or a recommendation to buy or sell any security. This document is for information purpose only and should not be construed as a promise on minimum returns or safeguard of capital. This document alone is not sufficient and should not be used for the development or implementation of an investment strategy. The recipient should note and understand that the information provided above may not contain all the material aspects relevant for making an investment decision. Investors are advised to consult their own investment advisor before making any investment decision in light of their risk appetite, investment goals and horizon. This information is subject to change without any prior notice.