Can backlogs affect your Canada study abroad plans? (The complete guide)

Updated on: Oct 30, 2023
Can backlogs affect your Canada study abroad plans? (The complete guide)
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When making plans to study abroad, there are a lot of things to consider, from choosing a course and university to taking all the compulsory entrance exams.

But while your admissions test results, statement of purpose and grades achieved are all used by admissions tutors when deciding whether to offer you a place, there’s another key element of your application they will see as just as — if not more — important: your backlog history.

Canadian universities are known as being quite strict when it comes to accepting international students with backlogs, but don’t worry, because that doesn’t mean the end of your dreams to study in Canada, even if you have some on your record.

So just how much do backlogs affect your plans to study abroad in Canada and how can you reduce the impact caused by backlogs in your application? Read on to find all the answers.

Can backlogs affect your Canada study abroad plans?

  1. What are backlogs?
  2. How are backlogs counted? 
  3. How many backlogs are allowed to study abroad in Canada?
  4. Do backlogs affect your visa to study in Canada?
  5. How to strengthen your application if you have backlogs

1. What are backlogs?

A backlog is an exam that you weren’t able to pass in your first attempt during your undergraduate degree.

Backlogs can be a result of a number of factors, including medical issues, exam stress, absenteeism, poor performance or other personal reasons.

The reason for failing the subject is important, as backlogs are broken down and listed as exams you attempted but failed (arrears) and exams that you couldn’t take (absent).

2. How are backlogs counted?

Each country has its own way of counting backlogs, so it’s important to research the individual rules for your chosen study abroad destination. 

But if you’re wondering how backlogs are counted in Canada, it isn’t actually that complex, as Canada adheres to the most common method of simply counting the number of exams you failed in an academic year.

So for example, if you fail four exams, this equates to four backlogs, irrespective of how many attempts it took to actually successfully clear the exams.

In other countries, including Germany and Australia, the backlog-counting system is different, as they view backlogs as the number of attempts used to clear exams.

Your academic institution will issue you with a backlog certificate, which details the number of backlogs you incurred during your time at university. If you plan to study abroad, you will be required to submit this along with your other documentation during the application stages. 

3. How many backlogs are allowed to study abroad in Canada?

Worried about whether or not universities are accepting backlogs in Canada? The good news is that you can be rest assured that backlogs won’t ruin your dreams of studying abroad, but you may need to adjust your university plans slightly.

This is because some of the best Canadian universities are quite strict about accepting students with strong academic records, and backlogs can have a negative impact on an application.

For example, top universities like the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto prefer students with no backlogs, and tend to accept a maximum of one to two backlogs as long as you have an otherwise excellent academic profile (70% average or higher).

Your chances of admission are lower the more backlogs you have, but generally speaking, a good number of reputable Canadian universities, including the likes of Cape Breton University, accept a maximum of five backlogs, provided you have a minimum average of 65-70%% in your previous studies.

PG degree programmes are different; institutions may accept seven or eight backlogs with a minimum average of 65% in bachelors. If you have 10 to 12 backlogs, you can apply for PG diplomas, as students are evaluated on an individual case-to-case basis.

This is a good option for students with a higher number of backlogs, as it is much easier to gain entry onto the course of your dreams following the successful completion of a PG Diploma.

The one extra point to note is that as a rule, Canadian universities do not accept anyone with active backlogs. You may be given a conditional offer based on you clearing all your backlogs before commencing your studies.

4. Do backlogs affect your visa to study in Canada?

In general, backlogs won’t affect the visa processing stage or interview in any country. Just make sure that you are honest about your backlogs if the subject comes up during your visa interview.

Otherwise, it’s simple: as long as you receive confirmation that you have been accepted by a university, you won’t have any problems securing a visa to study in Canada.

5. How to strengthen your application if you have backlogs

If you have backlogs, you shouldn’t feel disheartened. First, there are plenty of valid reasons to have them, and second, universities in Canada will also take into account all the other parts of your application before making their decision.

Make sure you put together a strong student profile and set aside some time to prepare for your standardised admissions tests and get to know the format before the test day.

Use your statement of purpose to highlight your genuine passion for the course you’re applying for, clearly demonstrating what makes you a good fit for the university and foreign study. It’s also a good idea to address your backlogs head-on, and honestly explain your shortcomings and the reasons behind it. 

Interested in studying abroad in Canada and want to find out more about your options? Let us help you find your perfect course and university today!

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Meet Talya, a part-time journalism master's student hailing from North Yorkshire. With a knack for assisting students in...Read More

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