How Many Data Points is a Prompt Worth?

Teven Le Scao, Alexander M. Rush

When fine-tuning pretrained models for classification, researchers either use a generic model head or a task-specific prompt for prediction. Proponents of prompting have argued that prompts provide a method for injecting task-specific guidance, which is beneficial in low-data regimes. We aim to quantify this benefit through rigorous testing of prompts in a fair setting: comparing prompted and head-based fine-tuning in equal conditions across many tasks and data sizes. By controlling for many sources of advantage, we find that prompting does indeed provide a benefit, and that this benefit can be quantified per task. Results show that prompting is often worth 100s of data points on average across classification tasks.

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