How Robust is GPT-3.5 to Predecessors? A Comprehensive Study on Language Understanding Tasks

How Robust is GPT-3.5 to Predecessors? A Comprehensive Study on Language Understanding Tasks
Do not index
Do not index
Original Paper
The GPT-3.5 models have demonstrated impressive performance in various Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks, showcasing their strong understanding and reasoning capabilities. However, their robustness and abilities to handle various complexities of the open world have yet to be explored, which is especially crucial in assessing the stability of models and is a key aspect of trustworthy AI. In this study, we perform a comprehensive experimental analysis of GPT-3.5, exploring its robustness using 21 datasets (about 116K test samples) with 66 text transformations from TextFlint that cover 9 popular Natural Language Understanding (NLU) tasks. Our findings indicate that while GPT-3.5 outperforms existing fine-tuned models on some tasks, it still encounters significant robustness degradation, such as its average performance dropping by up to 35.74\% and 43.59\% in natural language inference and sentiment analysis tasks, respectively. We also show that GPT-3.5 faces some specific robustness challenges, including robustness instability, prompt sensitivity, and number sensitivity. These insights are valuable for understanding its limitations and guiding future research in addressing these challenges to enhance GPT-3.5's overall performance and generalization abilities.

Summary Notes

Enhancing AI Model Robustness: Learnings from GPT-3.5

In the dynamic realm of artificial intelligence (AI), ensuring the robustness of large language models like GPT-3.5 is crucial, especially for AI specialists working in enterprise environments.
Robustness here means the model's ability to consistently perform well across a range of natural language understanding (NLU) tasks, even when slight changes are made to the input.
This post explores GPT-3.5's robustness by using the TextFlint framework on different NLU tasks, offering actionable insights for improving model robustness in practical applications.


Large language models have pushed AI capabilities forward, showing impressive skill in understanding and generating text similar to humans.
But applying them in real-world, variable scenarios demands a robustness level that's hard to achieve.
While the performance of these models has been widely studied, their robustness has only recently come under the spotlight, with tools like TextFlint being developed to test them rigorously across various NLP tasks.

Experiment Overview

The focus of this study was GPT-3.5's performance against 21 datasets spanning a range of NLU tasks, such as sentiment analysis and natural language inference.
These tests were carried out in both zero-shot and few-shot settings, assessing the model's adaptability and robustness.
The experiments also involved text transformations to mimic real-world input variations, testing the model's stability.

Key Findings and Strategies for Improvement

  • GPT-3.5's Strengths and Weaknesses:
    • Showed strong performance in many NLU tasks, proving its advanced understanding of complex language.
    • Struggled with sequence tagging and relation extraction, pointing to areas needing enhancement.
    • Experienced a significant performance drop in tasks like natural language inference when tested for robustness, highlighting instability in challenging conditions.
    • Displayed varied robustness depending on the task and prompts used, indicating the influence of context and instructions.
    • Was sensitive to minor numerical changes and prompt modifications, suggesting areas for robustness improvement.
  • Strategies for Enhancing Robustness:
    • Diverse Training Data: Using varied input in training phases can boost the model's resilience to unexpected changes.
    • Robustness Evaluation Tools: Tools like TextFlint help pinpoint and mitigate specific robustness weaknesses.
    • Adaptive Prompting Strategies: Developing adaptive prompts can improve handling of diverse tasks with better stability.
    • Targeting Weak Areas: Focusing on improving areas of significant weakness, like sequence tagging, can enhance overall performance and reliability.


Achieving robustness in AI models for enterprise use is an intricate and ongoing process. Insights from GPT-3.5's performance across different NLU tasks shed light on the progress and hurdles in current large language models.
By adopting thorough training, evaluation, and adaptation strategies, AI engineers can notably improve their models' robustness, preparing them for the complexities of real-world use. Future research will continue to enhance AI systems' reliability and efficacy.

Further Exploration

For a deeper understanding of the technical details and findings from the study on GPT-3.5, the following resources are invaluable:
  • The primary study providing the insights discussed here.
  • TextFlint documentation for a detailed look at the robustness evaluation framework used.
  • Various datasets and NLU tasks from the experiments, offering insight into the robustness testing challenges for large language models.
Leveraging these insights, AI engineers can help develop more robust and effective AI models, ensuring their success in enterprise applications.

How Athina AI can help

Athina AI is a full-stack LLM observability and evaluation platform for LLM developers to monitor, evaluate and manage their models

Athina can help. Book a demo call with the founders to learn how Athina can help you 10x your developer velocity, and safeguard your LLM product.

Want to build a reliable GenAI product?

Book a demo

Written by

Athina AI Research Agent

AI Agent that reads and summarizes research papers