Investigating the Effectiveness of Task-Agnostic Prefix Prompt for Instruction Following

Investigating the Effectiveness of Task-Agnostic Prefix Prompt for Instruction Following
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Original Paper
In this paper, we present our finding that prepending a Task-Agnostic Prefix Prompt (TAPP) to the input improves the instruction-following ability of various Large Language Models (LLMs) during inference. TAPP is different from canonical prompts for LLMs in that it is a fixed prompt prepended to the beginning of every input regardless of the target task for zero-shot generalization. We observe that both base LLMs (i.e. not fine-tuned to follow instructions) and instruction-tuned models benefit from TAPP, resulting in 34.58% and 12.26% improvement on average, respectively. This implies that the instruction-following ability of LLMs can be improved during inference time with a fixed prompt constructed with simple heuristics. We hypothesize that TAPP assists language models to better estimate the output distribution by focusing more on the instruction of the target task during inference. In other words, such ability does not seem to be sufficiently activated in not only base LLMs but also many instruction-fine-tuned LLMs. All experiments are reproducible from

Summary Notes

Enhancing Large Language Models with Task-Agnostic Prefix Prompts (TAPP)

The field of AI is continually evolving, with researchers striving to create models that can understand and follow instructions across various tasks without needing extensive modifications.
A notable breakthrough comes from a collaboration between KAIST and LG AI Research, introducing Task-Agnostic Prefix Prompts (TAPP). This method significantly boosts the instruction-following performance of Large Language Models (LLMs) across different tasks, representing a major step forward in making AI models more adaptable and efficient.

Key Insights

Introduction to TAPP

  • TAPP is a novel innovation aimed at improving the way LLMs follow instructions. It involves adding a fixed prompt before the input, helping models better comprehend and execute tasks without requiring task-specific adjustments.

Benefits of TAPP

  • Broad Applicability: TAPP has led to performance boosts across various models. For base models and those fine-tuned for instructions, improvements were 34.58% and 12.26%, respectively.
  • Competitive Edge for Smaller Models: Models with TAPP can outperform larger models that don't use it, showing TAPP's potential to make smaller models more competitive.
  • Works Well with Fine-Tuning: TAPP can be combined with fine-tuned models for further enhancements, showing its complementary nature.
  • Versatility Across Tasks: Its effectiveness spans different task types, including classification and generation, making TAPP a versatile tool for enhancing LLMs.
  • Classification Task Advantage: Incorporating classification tasks within TAPP, especially for generation tasks, provides notable benefits, underscoring the importance of task diversity.


The development of TAPP involved creating simple heuristics, like using classification tasks with clear answer choices. Its impact was tested using the Super-NaturalInstructions benchmark across a range of tasks, evaluating models like GPT-3 and GPT-J, with and without prior instruction fine-tuning.

Analysis Highlights

  • Resilience to Input Corruption: TAPP remains effective even when input distribution is altered, indicating models don't overly depend on specific input types.
  • Comparison to Task-Specific Prompts: TAPP matches or exceeds the performance of task-specific prompts, emphasizing its efficiency and potential to streamline instruction following in LLMs.
  • Boosts Few-shot Learning: It also enhances the ability for few-shot in-context learning, useful for applications requiring real-time task adaptation.


While TAPP brings significant advancements, it does introduce some challenges like increased inference computation time and a reliance on heuristic evaluation metrics, pointing to areas for further research and refinement.


TAPP represents a significant advancement in improving zero-shot generalization in LLMs, offering a promising method for enhancing model adaptability without task-specific tuning. This development opens new pathways for further enhancing LLMs' instruction-following abilities, signaling exciting future progress in AI model training.


This research was supported by the Institute of Information & Communications Technology Planning & Evaluation (IITP) under the Korean government, showcasing the collaborative effort behind this innovative approach.
AI Engineers in enterprise settings are encouraged to explore the full research paper for deeper insights and to consider TAPP for boosting their models' capabilities.
This advancement signifies a leap towards more versatile, efficient, and intelligent AI systems across various industries.

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