Grantee Research

Evaluating Productive Mindset Interventions that Promote Excellence on California’s Bar Exam

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



psychological barriers, bar passage, bar passage correlates, educational psychology and metacognition, growth mindset


As Mindsets in Legal Education (MILE) researchers, we designed, administered, and evaluated the online productive mindset intervention referred to as the California Bar Exam Strategies and Stories Program (the program). In partnership with the State Bar of California (SBC), we streamlined and simplified the enrollment process while improving participation on the July 2018 and July 2019 California bar exams.

1. Proven Effectiveness: Working closely with the SBC, we conducted a preliminary analysis of the program in January 2020. The results suggest that the program increases the likelihood of passing the bar exam, after controlling for LSAT and GPA, by between 6.8 to 9.6 percent, depending on the analysis conducted.

2. Boost for First-Generation and Underrepresented Minority Students: The program particularly helped applicants who were first-gen college students and underrepresented minorities, according to our analyses.

3. Reductions in Psychological Friction: Our analyses suggest that the productive mindset intervention succeeded by reducing psychological friction. Among applicants studying for the exam, it fostered stress-is-enhancing and growth mindsets that helped them succeed in the face of stress, anxiety, and mistakes.

In light of these results, we recommend that the SBC offer the California Bar Exam Strategies and Stories Program to future cohorts. Future test takers would likely benefit from the stress-is-enhancing and growth mindsets that the program fosters. Adaptive mindsets may be especially important in the immediate future, as applicants face adversity associated with COVID-19. We anticipate updating the program to address these new sources of psychological friction.