How to Prepare for Your AP STEM Classes Over the Summer

High school students aiming for a career in STEM have a competitive journey ahead of them- a good way to set yourself apart is by excelling in advanced courses. If you’re looking to ace your Advanced Placement (AP) STEM courses, it’s never too early to start preparing, and there’s no better time than the upcoming summer break. With strategic planning and dedication, summer prep can ensure you hit the ground running, ready to take on complex STEM subjects with confidence.

The Value of Summer Preparations for AP STEM Courses

The importance of summer study for AP STEM classes cannot be overstated. Advanced Placement courses are designed to be college-level, and preparing early means you’re not just aiming to pass an exam – you’re setting a foundation for future academic success. By investing your summer in AP preparation, you’re gaining a significant edge:

  • Reduced Stress During the School Year: Adequate preparation can mean a less overwhelming fall semester. AP prep is not a quick sprint– it is a marathon that can be started over the summer.
  • Improved Understanding and Retention: Spending sustained, concentrated time on AP material allows for a deeper understanding, which leads to better retention.
  • Skill Set Enhancement: The skills you refine for your AP courses – critical thinking, problem-solving, and time management – are highly transferable and foundational for all STEM careers.
  • College Application Strengthening: Success in AP courses demonstrates to colleges your readiness for college-level work.


STEM AP Classes to Take

There are plenty of AP classes for future STEM majors to take in high school, although it depends on what your high school offers.



  • AP Biology
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Physics
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Psychology



  • Calculus
  • Precalculus
  • Statistics


If your school doesn’t offer a specific course, but you still want to take the AP test, the College Board has a checklist to follow.


When choosing which AP courses to take, check out your ideal college to see what AP courses they accept for certain major requirements. This could save you tuition money or save you time now if a course doesn’t transfer for credit!


Structuring Your Summer for STEM Success

Create a Study Schedule

Begin by creating a structured study schedule. Allocate specific times for different subjects each day. Plan regular breaks and ensure that your schedule is manageable and maintainable. This helps to prevent burnout and ensures that the studying you do is high-quality and focused.


Subject-Specific Prep

Each AP STEM subject requires different strategies for success. Here’s a general guide on how to approach some of the major ones:


How to Prepare for AP Calculus Over the Summer

For AP Calculus, concentrate on foundational algebra and trigonometry, as these underpin most calculus concepts. Review past math classes and catch up on concepts you struggled with. Practice is key, so work through a variety of integration, differentiation, and application problems.


How to Prepare for AP Biology Over the Summer

Refresh your understanding of biology with resources and available textbooks. Check out your local library or used bookstore to find affordable assets. Refresh your memory on cells and genetics.


How to Prepare for AP Physics Over the Summer

Start with a solid understanding of mathematical concepts as applied to physics. Review past math classes and take some online courses if you struggle. Solve as many problems as possible, emphasizing conceptual understanding and application.


Reach Out

If you already know who your AP teacher will be, reach out to them to see what they recommend you do over the summer to prepare. You can also contact past teachers you’ve had in the same or similar subjects to get their advice and find older students who already completed the class for any pointers.


Taking Practice Tests

Practice tests are invaluable tools. They help acclimate you to the format and timing of the exam, and pinpoint areas that need additional focus. The College Board’s official practice resources are the closest you can get to the real thing and can be found online.


Support Systems

Forming study groups or seeking mentorship can greatly enhance your preparation. Reach out to fellow students or teachers for study sessions and help, or look for online communities and forums where you can discuss materials and practices.


Balancing Work and Play

While rigorous study is critical, it’s equally important to rest and recharge- this is still your summer vacation. Schedule your study time appropriately, ensuring you have plenty of time for exercise, hobbies, and relaxation.


Top Resources for STEM AP Classes

Post-Summer Strategies

Your summer preparation should not be a sprint to check off every topic. It is the first leg of a race you will continue through fall, winter, and spring. Maintain the momentum you’ve built up over the summer by adapting your learning strategies a little before school starts:

  • Consolidating Knowledge: Use your curriculum to ensure you are ready for class discussions and can follow along with new material.
  • Incorporating Feedback: Review tests and coursework to understand where you may need to adjust your study routine.
  • Continuing Practice: Use resources like Khan Academy or educational videos to reinforce lessons and continue problem-solving practice.
  • Utilize Provided Resources: The College Board offers ongoing programs and videos as the year progresses for enrolled AP students.


If you enjoy spending your summer preparing for AP STEM classes and are local to the San Diego area, you could be the perfect fit for our Squared Fellows Program! Applications open in the fall.