“Throughout history, there have been many paradigm shifts.”

What is the best definition of paradigm?

Check your answer!

Choice A - A widely disputed or controversial philosophical framework
Choice B - A philosophical framework that is prevalent at a given time
Choice C - A new idea that has just started to gain attention or momentum
Choice D - A model of excellence or perfection in appearance or behavior


Paradigm (noun) – a typical or clear example of something; or, the accepted philosophical framework of a particular field at a given time

Paradigmatic (adjective) – having the characteristic of being standard or prototypical; or, representative of the philosophy of the times  

GRE pro tips:

The word paradigm contains the Greek prefix para-, which means “side-by-side,” and derives from paradeigma meaning pattern or model.” So it makes sense that the first definition of paradigm is a model, standard, or prime example of something. For instance, some may believe that scientific information is the paradigm of true knowledge – particularly if scientific observations match, or are side-by-side or parallel to, their notions of what truth should be.

The second definition of paradigm is the standard perspective, or broad frame of ideas that informs a particular discipline at a given time. It’s important to remember that paradigms are not set in stone and that, given new information or technology, new paradigms – or new patterns of thinking – come along over time. If the old perspective falls short, what happens is called a “paradigm shift.” For instance, a massive paradigm shift took place in the 17th century, when humans stopped believing that the earth was the center of the universe and learned that it actually revolved around the sun. So, maybe you can think of paradigms as patterns of thinking that are often made to be broken.

Example sentences:

“As a democratic and capitalistic nation, we operate within the paradigm of consumerism.”

“Younger generations often dismantle the paradigms of those who came before them.”

“His work is paradigmatic of the new style.”