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How Do Backlogs Affect Your Study Abroad Plan

Nov 23, 2022Date Published
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UniSearch - How Do Backlogs Affect Your Study Abroad Plan

You don’t have to throw away your dreams to get an international education because of a backlog. Although having a backlog may seem like a black stain on your academic record, it doesn’t spell the end for your study abroad dreams. Many universities in popular countries like Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA accept applications from international students with a history of backlogs. UniSearch experts are here to answer the “how do backlogs affect your study abroad plan” question. Follow our thorough guide below to learn how to get into your target school with backlogs!

Backlogs: How Do They Affect Your Study Abroad Plans?

There are several things that students must consider while planning to study abroad. You must select a course and a university, keep track of the admissions process, and, of course, study hard to achieve good results. The latter starts long before applications for your target semester even begin. After all, you can’t spruce up your grades overnight close to an application deadline. But what if you don't receive the grades you want because you're weak in particular subjects? What if, because of circumstances, you had no choice but to miss or perform poorly in certain exams? What happens if you have a backlog in one of the courses? Will you have to give up your goal of studying abroad? If you're stressed out because of such thoughts, don't worry. We will explain what a backlog is and how backlogs affect your study abroad plan. We will also share some tips on how to overcome the backlogs!

What are Backlogs?

If you’re here, you likely already know what “backlog” means. We're running through its general definition to ensure we’re on the same page so you know exactly what’s required for your study abroad applications!

In simple words, a backlog is an exam you could not pass on your first try. This might be due to a lack of preparation or being unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances. Backlogs are a list of exams that you:

  • Attempted and failed
  • Were unable to sit

You have to clear all your previous backlogs to successfully enrol in any international program.

What is the Backlog Certificate?

This is a certificate provided by your academic institution that contains information on your backlogs. Even if you have no backlogs, your international university may request one with academic transcripts to validate your academic records.

Method of Counting Backlogs

Different institutions count backlogs differently. While some may evaluate the number of failed subject attempts, others may consider the number of subject backlogs. To clarify, let's split them into two categories:

Method of Counting Backlogs
Number of Failed Subjects
Number of Attempts
In this case, the number of failed subjects represents the number of backlogs.

For example, failing two subjects would result in a total of two backlogs, regardless of how many attempts you made to pass them.

Here, the number of attempts to pass even a single failing subject represents the number of backlogs.

For example, if you fail one course and have to retake it five times before passing, your backlog would be five.

Commonly Used By
The USA, Canada, The UK, New Zealand, Ireland
Australia, Germany

Strategies for Overcoming the Effects of Backlogs

Many international universities allow backlogs, but how do you compare against a profile free of backlogs with an excellent academic record? Thankfully, backlogs are only one aspect of your profile and universities abroad consider many other factors while evaluating an applicant. Backlogs can have a minimal influence on your university profile if you focus on the following:

Score High on the GMAT/GRE/IELTS/TOEFL

You can't go back in time and make your backlog disappear. However, you can work hard and achieve a high admissions exam score. Your GMAT scores may add much weight to your application for a master’s degree in business at the graduate level. For a Master’s in Science degree, your GRE scores can add a lot of weight. If you didn’t perform well in English and/or Math, test scores for the IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic, SAT, or ACT may even the odds in your favour. You must be observant, prepare for your studies, and perform to the best of your ability. Estimate the average admissions scores for your preferred programs in the upcoming academic year.

Mention Your Backlogs in Your Statement Of Purpose

A statement of purpose lets you go into more detail about what’s on your resume or transcripts. So, the SOP is a great place to outline how you’re a wonderful candidate for the program despite any backlogs. You must first determine if an explanation would improve or undermine your profile. If you believe justifying it would cast you in a negative light, then briefly mention that and focus on other positive parts of your academic background, achievements, and objectives. Remember that you shouldn’t sound like you’re making excuses for the backlog or trying to win pity points. A key tip is to focus on the positive attributes you show while managing your backlogs. For example, mention your successful retakes or how you persevered to pull through academically. Most importantly, don't exaggerate and be honest.

Address Your Backlogs in the Interview

If you get an invitation for an admissions interview, you may need to address your backlogs. Explain why you have these backlogs and if they result from personal or health difficulties. Like the SOP, you will need to gauge whether focusing on these backlogs adds or removes from your profile. You may have missed exams because of a family emergency, for example. You could focus on your performance throughout the semester, how the rest of your exams went, or how you pulled in the grade you did despite circumstances. Think about how to showcase your resilience, motivation, and determination as a student doing their best to pursue their academic ambitions despite the challenges. In addition, highlight your future aspirations, how you would be an asset to the university, and how you have worked hard to overcome obstacles by performing well on the GMAT, GRE or IELTS.

Highlight Extracurricular Activities

Undoubtedly, extracurricular activities are important for admissions into international institutions. They make your profile attractive and refocus attention on other aspects of your eligibility than just your backlogs. If you don’t have any extracurricular activities to highlight, take up internships, volunteer work, employment, short online courses, projects, etc.

Popular Countries that Accept Backlogs

As you have seen so far, you can still achieve your study abroad goals even if you have backlogs. Some universities may be tough about backlogs, while others may be fairly tolerant. Before applying, make sure to find out the conditions for acceptance. Here is a list of popular countries for study abroad that accept backlogs:

Countries that Accept Backlogs
Acceptance Level
Maximum Backlogs Accepted
Moderate - Tolerant

Differs from one university to the next. While public institutions accept applications with fewer backlogs, private universities may be more tolerant.
Canadian institutions will allow up to 5 backlogs in your undergraduate studies if you have a minimum GPA of 70%.
Very strict
Top institutions do not accept backlog histories. Still, a limited number of universities may consider applicants with backlogs.
A strong SOP and an overall good profile may boost your chances of acceptance.
New Zealand
Fairly Tolerant
Universities will consider your backlog history if you have an overall outstanding student profile.
Can apply with backlogs. Still, the emphasis will be on the SOP, IELTS score, and the rest of the application
Extremely strict
Most universities will accept a clean academic record. A solid profile with strong SOP, standardised exam results, English proficiency, etc. may be considered


Let's find out more about each country and how its universities process backlogs! 

1. Australia

Australian institutions count the number of attempts as backlogs. All private universities in Australia accept fewer than 7 or 8 backlogs, whereas public universities accept fewer than 2 to 3 backlogs. If you choose public institutions over private ones, you should have fewer than three backlogs. This number changes depending on the institution. Some universities allow up to 15 backlogs.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
0-5 backlogs
5-10 backlogs
10–15 backlogs

2. Canada

Canadian institutions allow up to five backlogs with a minimum grade point average of 70% during prior academic qualification. Canadian colleges may also accept seven or eight backlogs for postgraduate degree programs with a minimum bachelor's average of 65%. If you have 10 or 12 backlogs, you can apply for postgraduate diplomas, wherein students with more backlogs have a good chance of acceptance.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
0-5 backlogs
5-10 backlogs

3. Germany

Germany has strict requirements for admitting students with backlogs. The acceptability of backlogs depends on location. An essential thing to understand when applying to Germany is that universities in Germany do not consider the number of subjects but rather the number of attempts as backlogs. In other words, German universities count the number of times you have attempted to pass a single subject.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
0-5 backlogs
  • Jacobs University Bremen
  • International School of Management (ISM)
  • SRH Hochschule Berlin
  • SRH Hochschule Heidelberg
  • Technical University of Munich (TUM)
5-10 backlogs
  • Berlin School of Business & Innovation (BSBI)
  • EU Business School - Munich
  • GISMA Business School
  • International University of Applied Sciences (IU)

4. Ireland

Irish universities uphold exceptional education quality. For Irish universities, the backlogs are more course-specific. Most Irish institutions accept applications with a total of 4 to 5 backlogs, with some accepting just 2 to 3 backlogs. However, there are some universities which accept 10 to 15 backlogs.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
0-5 backlogs
5-10 backlogs
  • IT Carlow
10-15 backlogs
  • Griffith College
  • Dublin Business School

5. New Zealand

Most New Zealand universities accept students with a limit of five backlogs. Certain selective institutions may take students with 12 to 15 backlogs. If you have a good IELTS score, credible research work, or extra-curricular activities to back up your backlogs, you have a good chance of getting in.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
0-5 backlogs
5-10 backlogs
  • Unitec New Zealand
  • Manukau Institute of Technology
10-15 backlogs
  • Ara Institute of Canterbury
  • Whitireia Community Polytechnic
  • Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
15+ backlogs
  • Weltec Institute of Technology
  • Eastern Institute of Technology

5. The UK

UK institutions can easily accept international students with up to 15 backlogs. When submitting your application, ensure you have all the crucial exam results that your university requires. Language criteria such as PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS scores are significant elements of admissions requirements.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
5-15 backlogs

6. The USA

Most American institutions prefer students with no backlogs, but in limited instances, they may allow up to five backlogs if you have an excellent GRE score between 315 and 325. Also, in circumstances with 10 to 12 backlogs, admission is at the university's discretion.

No. of Backlogs
Universities Accepting Backlogs
0-5 backlogs

  • Kent State University
  • Wichita State University
  • Marist College
  • Gannon University
  • Clarkson University
  • Wright State University
5-10 backlogs
  • Pace University
  • Clark University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
  • New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)
  • California State University
  • University of South Dakota
  • Missouri State University
  • Golden Gate University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Rowan University
  • Pittsburg State University

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will my backlog history affect my visa?

Generally, you will not have visa issues if your university accepts you and confirms your acceptance. 

Which countries accept maximum backlogs?

Fortunately, several international universities do not place a high value on backlogs. They are more likely to look at your overall profile and extracurricular activities. Some popular study locations, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, do not have as strict selection requirements for a profile evaluation. If you show the appropriate grade boundaries for relevant subjects for your target course, you should not have trouble qualifying for your chosen degree.

Our Concluding Thoughts

Whether you have a backlog or not, working hard can still get you into the university of your dreams. While your academic record may indicate your backlogs, your SOP, extracurricular activities, and test scores will demonstrate the type of student you will be in the future. If you have a backlog, don’t give up hope. Just make sure to research the backlog criteria of the university, subject, and country you are choosing. Keep in mind that universities that accept more than 15 backlogs may charge a higher tuition cost.