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For example, someone who started learning and playing badminton five years before you do, under the same instructor. Another example, like a senior person in the same school.

Thanks.

  • These pop out of my head -- prexy or school/team senior. – Jesse Aug 31 '13 at 4:40
  • A more experienced player/driver/actor/teacher etc. – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 '13 at 4:46
  • You might also call them upper-level or upper-classmen – Jim Aug 31 '13 at 4:50
  • Precocious might fit too, depending on your usage context. – Autoresponder Aug 31 '13 at 6:58
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Words like forerunner, precursor, and predecessor may serve:
forerunner, “a runner at the front or ahead”, also “a forebear, an ancestor, a predecessor” • precursor, “That which precurses, a forerunner, a predecessor, an indicator of approaching events”
predecessor, “One who precedes; one who has preceded another in any state, position, office, etc.; one whom another follows or comes after, in any office or position”

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Edit:
I may have been too hasty in answering the OP's question: A word for someone who has started learning before another person. I'm not sure if my suggestions fit the bill, as they describe learners of a certain experience and not someone who began earlier in their studies. If the OP would like to confirm whether I have indeed misinterpreted his question, I will delete my answer. Thank you!

To use your example of someone who has been playing badminton for at least five years compared to a complete novice or someone at a much lower level we could describe the student or learner (in one word) as being:

  • a skilled player
  • a trained player
  • a senior player (but this could lead to ambiguity, where the word senior can be related to age rather than rank or level of expertise).
  • a tutored player
  • a semi-proficient player (Yes, it's a compound noun, not really a single word but proficient would be inappropriate.)
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would you not just call them senior, perhaps upperclassman as opposed to freshman or sophomore

or veteran as opposed to novice or a neophyte

or even an old hand?

In a vein similar to previously suggested 'predecessor' you can also call them antecessor

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