Google Research

Finetuned Language Models are Zero-Shot Learners

International Conference on Learning Representations (2022)


This paper explores a simple method for improving the zero-shot learning abilities of language models. We show that instruction tuning---finetuning language models on a collection of tasks described via instructions---substantially boosts zero-shot performance on unseen tasks.

We take a 137B parameter pretrained language model and instruction-tune it on over 60 NLP tasks verbalized via natural language instruction templates. We evaluate this instruction-tuned model, which we call FLAN, on unseen task types. FLAN substantially improves the performance of its unmodified counterpart and surpasses zero-shot 175B GPT-3 on 20 of 25 tasks that we evaluate. FLAN even outperforms few-shot GPT-3 by a large margin on ANLI, RTE, BoolQ, AI2-ARC, OpenbookQA, and StoryCloze. Ablation studies reveal that number of tasks and model scale are key components to the success of instruction tuning.

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