About the author: David Quan, one of thirty recipients worldwide of a Cambridge Trust Scholarship, was one of our state’s top performing students, earning a near-perfect ATAR and International Baccalaureate (IB) score. An Order of Australia Association Student Citizenship Awards recipient, David has tutored, coached and mentored hundreds of Primary and Secondary students over the last half-decade, especially through his active volunteering and leadership roles for school, basketball, music, public speaking, social enterprise and community service.

Advanced Education SA
is pleased to partner with David before he commences his undergraduate studies at the world-renowned University of Cambridge. We hope that his fresh insights and perspective may offer all our students further inspiration to access excellence and advance their education. For private and group tuition enquiries, please visit our website at https://advancededucation.com.au/

Systematic Studying (0): Why You Should Engineer Your Own RAILWAY System
Systematic Studying (1): Not 1, Not 2, But 3!




One of my earliest childhood memories concerned our peculiar – or manipulated – home clock. We were scheduled to meet Alex (a family friend) downstairs at 7am sharp that day to go fishing. While my parents meticulously checked the rods, bobbers, and extra lines in the morning, I ran back and forth to different rooms to ensure that my favourite toys were included in their bags – what egocentric behaviour! I suddenly looked up at our home clock to check the time: 6:59am!

“Oh, NO!”, I thought! 5-year old me probably wasn’t the greatest at Maths but I did correctly realize that we were certain to be at least a couple of minutes late.

This may not have seemed like a big deal, but I was genuinely frustrated and upset. Mum and Dad were always strict about being on time – especially when it concerned others. Since being on time was all about respecting other people and valuing their time, I internalized their message and took absolute pride in it. So, the thought of Alex waiting for us alone pained me. Vividly imagining him in utter disappointment, I urged for us to race down immediately. And we did. Yet, Alex wasn’t there – I couldn’t believe that he’d committed, as I had considered then, the biggest sin: being late!  


Our Manipulated Home Clock: Power of 15 minutes


Mum and Dad correctly read my visible disappointment, so they assured me: “We’re not late, son. Alex is not late either. We’re actually early: it’s only 6:47am!” Just to interject, Einstein didn’t help us to go back in time by travelling faster than light. Instead, it was the power of a manipulated home clock! I learnt then that my parents had always manipulated our home clock to be 15-minutes ahead of the ‘real’ time. By doing so, we were mostly prepared and rarely late. Their lesson was simple: “Choose to be ready for the moment before the moment”.


Academic Relevance of ’15 minutes’


Academically for me, this 15-minute gap over the years has not only been representative of 900 seconds. It has more importantly become a mindset, approach or commitment to learning. In other words, this is not merely about arriving at class or handing up the assignment early or on time in a physical sense. It’s rather about truly being prepared for learning from a metaphorical and psychological perspective.

Lessons at school, especially when starting a new topic of learning, can be difficult to follow. Chances are, like me, you don’t possess innate understanding of how to balance chemical equations, integrate complex functions, or evaluate oligopolistic markets. That’s OK. So, what can you do to make the most out of our teacher’s explanations then? I recommend you to just spend 15 minutes familiarising the content before class. 


But How, Specifically?

Depending on varying factors such as difficulty of content, weight of grades or availability of scheduling, my RAILWAY system has adopted the following approaches as preparation for each lesson and class:

  1.     Skim read the chapter from the relevant textbook or study guide, paying particular attention to keywords and diagrams.
  2.     Search concepts and keywords on YouTube and engage in some videos.
  3.     Discuss new material with friends either face-to-face or virtually.

As I became more and more comfortable and organized, I strived not only to be ’minutes’, but ‘hours’ or even ‘days’ ahead! Before classes and lessons, for example, I would’ve already:

  1.     Read and noted textbooks or study guides in my ‘bad copy’ notebook, highlighting any areas of confusion.
  2.     Watched and noted lessons and teachings from online educators in my ‘bad copy’ notebook. 
  3.     Shared learning with friends and asked for their perspective.

Going this extra mile – even for only 15 minutes – can be immensely valuable for your studies as it emphasises discipline, commitment, and independent active learning. More practically, concepts in class will be easier to understand. Lessons can then become an engagement opportunity for clarification, consolidation or revision. Small commitment, big rewards!


Signing Off

Just as the best athletes warm up before a game, the best students are often the ones who are most prepared beforehand. It takes minimum talent; just discipline. Even only 15-minutes the night before a class can help you to “be ready for the moment before the moment”.

It’s exactly 9pm now, and I’ve finally finished writing this article. It’s not great. But the good news is that this leaves me with another 24 hours and 15 minutes to draft, edit and review my own writing before the real deadline of 9pm tomorrow.

Maybe, you should also manipulate your home clock?