Can a Student With Backlogs Pursue Higher Education Abroad?


Subhashri Roy
Updated on Mar 25, 2022 11:20 PM IST

Do your backlogs matter when applying to universities abroad? Find out everything about backlogs, including countries that accept backlogs, and what you can do to overcome backlogs. 

Can a Student With Backlogs Pursue Higher Education Abroad?

Is it even possibe tostudyabroadwith backlogs?Don't worry! We are here to answer all your questions related to backlogs and whether or not they can affect your study abroad plans.

Well, first things first -yes, you can study abroad with backlogs. However, there are certain conditions given how universities across the world prefer students with extraordinary academic records.

Now, dont panic because even toppers have been there and sometimes only hard work and a well-thought-out plan can be enough to address this problem. Heres everything you need to know about backlogs and their impact on your study abroad plans.

What are Backlogs?

A backlog is an exam that you could not clear in the first attempt during your bachelors or masters degree. Otherwise, one may also refer to backlogs as the number of subjects in an exam that they have failed or a subject that is yet to be cleared by them. In simple terms, backlogs are nothing but the yet-to-cleared courses at the end (final year) of your degree. These courses may either be the ones that you attempted and failed or were unable to take.

When it comes to backlogs, you would have to clear them in order to get your degree. All universities, be it abroad or in India, do not admit applicants with active backlogs.

To give you are clearer picture: Lets say a Student A fails in subject X of the 3rd semester. A doesnt have to stay in the 3rd semester and can write and clear subject X in addition to the exams at the end of the fourth semester.

Find Out Which Course/University Would be Ideal for You if You HaveBacklogs!

Also Read:Omicron Impact: What Lies Ahead for Study Abroad Aspirants?

How do Backlogs Affect Your Study Abroad Plans?

Lets face it! It is not as uncommon as you might think when it comes to backlogs in college. Backlogs are certainly common among students, especially those in the field of engineering. Also, backlogs are accepted in almost every country although to different extents.

The smartest thing to do here is to figure out what the requirements are for universities in your desired study destination. Similarly, dig deeper and find out the number of backlogs and the importance of backlogs in the universities you are looking forward to applying to. While some countries may be relatively lenient in terms of counting or accepting backlogs, some may be strict enough to not even consider your profile.

Universities lenient enough would look at other aspects of your academic profile, which includes your academic CV, LORs, SOP and test scores of standardised exams such as the GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, PTE or Duolingo English Test (DET). So, what you need to look at is - which other part of your application could make you the cut or draw the attention of the admissions officer.

And, when it comes to visa processing, your backlogs would generally not have any impact on it Also, sometimes, universities ignore backlogs in subjects that are hardly related to your desired program of study.

How are Backlogs Counted - Subjects vs Attempts?

While there might only be two major ways to count backlogs, every university abroad may do it differently. These two ways include counting either the number of subjects or the number of attempts you took to clear your backlogs. Let us now look at the table below to have a better idea about how backlogs are counted to study abroad and especially countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and New Zealand.

Way of Counting Backlogs

Number of Failed Subjects

Number of Attempts


Here, the number of failed subjects would represent the number of backlogs. For instance, failure in two subjects would result in a total of two backlogs regardless of the number of attempts you took to pass them.

Here, the number of attempts to pass even a single failed subject would be counted. For example, if you fail in one subject and take five attempts to eventually pass it, your number of backlogs would be considered five.

Popular Applicable Countries

US, UK, Canada, New Zealand

Australia, Germany

Note: This is only for reference and the same must be cross-checked with the university you are applying to.

Also Read:Flying Abroad for Higher Studies? Know Your University's Vaccination Requirements

What to Do to Overcome the Effects of Backlogs?

Yes, backlogs may be accepted by universities overseas but, how would they stand against a profile clear of backlogs and with a stellar academic record? Well, a profile with backlogs would not be selected just like that especially in countries like the US or UK. However, backlogs are only one aspect of your profile and luckily, universities abroad consider a lot of other factors when considering an applicant. You can deal with the effects of backlogs on your university profile by concentrating on the following:

  • Score High on the GMAT/GRE: Well, you cannot go back and have your backlogs disappear. But, what you can do is, work hard and obtain a good GMAT/GRE score. You have to be clever, strategise your study plan well and do as well as you possibly can. Find out what the average GMAT/GRE score is for your desired course in the upcoming academic year.

  • Justify Your Backlogs in Your SOP: This is where you can make most of the difference. However, you would first need to ask yourself if an explanation would strengthen or further weaken your profile. If you think that justifying it would rather put you in a bad light, then leave it and talk about other strong aspects of your academic background, achievements and goals. Let the evaluator know why you are interested in the university and the program and how passionate you are about moving forward with it. Most importantly, dont exaggerate or pretend and be honest.

  • Explain Your Backlogs in Your Interview: Whether you have mentioned your backlogs in your SOP or not, you have got to talk about them in the interview. Tell them why you have these backlogs if they were due to some family or health issues. In addition, highlight your future goals and how you would be an asset to the university and how you have strived to overcome your challenges by scoring well on the GMAT or GRE.

  • Highlight Extracurriculars: Believe it or not, extracurricular activities play a crucial role in admission to universities abroad. They would not just grab attention but also take away all the heed that would be paid to your backlogs. In case you do not have any, take up internships, volunteer work, jobs, short online courses, projects, etc.

  • Connection with Your Program: Is your backlog subject directly related to the program of study you are applying for? If yes, then this could pose a greater problem whereas if your backlog is only insignificantly related to your program, then you can always say that your backlog would not have an impact on your future performance.

Have Your Profile Reviewed by Experts to Get Accepted into Your Desired University!

Where Can You Study with Backlogs & How Many Backlogs are Accepted?

The table below enlists the top countries that accept backlogs within the range of 5 to 15. While some may be strict about backlogs, some may be quite lenient. Make sure to check with the university before applying.

Country that Accepts Backlogs

Acceptance of Backlogs

Maximum Number of Backlogs Accepted


Extremely strict; Preference will be given to students with no backlogs. However, an otherwise strong profile (SOP, standardised test scores, English proficiency, etc.) may make the cut.



A little strict; Applicants with backlogs should have an overall good percentage of at least 65%



Lenient; Can apply with backlogs although focus shall be laid on SOP, IELTS score and the rest of the application



Varies from one university to another. While public universities accept applicants with fewer backlogs, private universities may be relatively more lenient.

3 to 8


Very strict; Top universities do not accept backlog history although a limited number of universities may consider students with backlogs



Strict; An overall good profile with a strong SOP may increase your chances of being accepted


New Zealand

Quite lenient; backlogs should be compensated with an overall strong student profile

15 and above

Also Read:Common Mistakes to Avoid While Writing an SOP or Application Essay

Backlogs or not, only hard work and more hard work can get you into the university of your dreams. While your academic transcript may reveal your backlogs, your SOP, LORs, test scores, among other things would showcase what kind of a student you are going to make ahead. So, whether you have one backlog or over five backlogs, clear them and start looking forward because that is what will make the real difference in your study abroad application.

Get in touch with our overseas admissions counsellors at for one-on-one guidance, personalised application and admission strategy as well as a solid strategy to prepare well and get into your desired university.

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