How Can Large Language Models Self-Improve?

How Can Large Language Models Self-Improve?


7 min read


How can large language models self-improve? Let’s demystify this magic! This blog aims to unravel the intricacies of how these models, once a figment of science fiction, are now a reality, enhancing their capabilities through internal mechanisms without the need for external supervision. We will delve into the meaning of self-improvement in LLMs, explore the innovative methodologies that enable this, discuss the profound implications for the future of AI, and learn about an alternative way for better LLM performances — — LLM APIs.

What Does It Mean by Saying LLMs Can Self-Improve?

When we say Large Language Models (LLMs) can “self-improve,” it means that these AI models have the capability to enhance their performance on certain tasks through a process that relies primarily on their own internal mechanisms, without the need for external supervision or the input of correct answers (labels). Here’s a breakdown of what this entails:

Utilization of Unlabeled Data

Traditionally, improving an LLM’s performance requires a large amount of labeled data — data that has been manually annotated with correct answers. Self-improvement means the LLM can work with unlabeled data, generating its own potential answers.

Generation of Multiple Solutions

The LLM generates multiple possible answers or solutions to a given question or problem. This is often done by simulating different reasoning paths or approaches to arrive at an answer.

Internal Consistency Check

Using techniques like majority voting or self-consistency, the LLM evaluates its own generated answers and selects the most consistent or likely correct one. This selection process is based on the model’s confidence in the answers rather than external validation.

Feedback Loop for Learning

The LLM uses the high-confidence answers it generates as if they were correct labels. It then fine-tunes its parameters based on these self-generated answers, effectively learning from its own thought processes.

Iterative Refinement

This process can be repeated iteratively, where the LLM continues to generate new answers, select the most consistent ones, and refine its understanding and performance on the task.

Improvement Without Human Intervention

The key aspect of self-improvement is that it minimizes the need for human intervention. While humans may still be involved in the initial setup or in evaluating the outcomes, the learning process itself is automated.

Enhanced Reasoning Abilities

Over time, this self-improvement process can lead to significant enhancements in the LLM’s reasoning abilities, making it more capable of handling complex tasks and providing more accurate responses.

How Can LLMs Self-improve?

The article “Large Language Models Can Self-Improve” shows us LLM’s ability to self-improve by using self-labeled data. Like always, skip the section if you are not interested in technical details.


Large Language Models (LLMs) have been achieving state-of-the-art performance across a variety of natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Despite these advances, improving their capabilities beyond a few examples typically requires extensive fine-tuning with high-quality, supervised datasets.

Inspiration from Human Cognition

The paper draws inspiration from the human ability to enhance reasoning skills through introspection and self-thinking without external guidance. It proposes a method for LLMs to similarly self-improve using only unlabeled datasets, emulating the metacognitive process.

Self-Improvement Methodology

  • A pre-trained LLM is utilized to work with unlabeled question datasets.

  • The model employs Chain-of-Thought (CoT) prompting to generate multiple reasoning paths and answers for each question, showcasing the step-by-step thought process.

  • Majority voting is used to select the most frequent answer among the generated responses, indicating high confidence.

  • The reasoning paths leading to the most consistent answer are retained for further use in self-training.

Diverse Training Formats

To prevent model overfitting to specific prompts, the selected reasoning paths are formatted into four different styles for training, including using CoT examples, direct answers (also generated by the model itself), and prompts that encourage the model to think independently.

Automatic Generation of Questions and Prompts

To minimize reliance on human-generated content, the authors explore techniques for the model to automatically create additional training questions and CoT prompts, further enhancing the self-improvement process.

Empirical Validation

Experiments conducted using a 540B-parameter LLM demonstrate significant performance improvements across various benchmarks without the need for true labels, showcasing the model’s enhanced reasoning abilities.


The self-improvement method showed substantial benefits across different tasks, including arithmetic reasoning, commonsense reasoning, and natural language inference. The authors conclude that LLMs can improve their performance on reasoning datasets by training on self-generated labels, achieving new state-of-the-art results without relying on ground truth labels.

Self-Improving LLMs, So What?

Enhanced Performance

LLMs will continuously improve their accuracy and effectiveness in performing tasks such as language translation, question-answering, summarization, and more complex reasoning tasks.

Reduced Dependence on Labeled Data

The need for large datasets annotated by humans will decrease, as LLMs can learn from their own outputs and unlabeled data.

Faster Iterative Improvement

With the ability to self-assess and self-correct, LLMs can iterate through learning cycles more rapidly, accelerating the pace of advancements in AI capabilities.


Reducing reliance on human annotators for training data can lower the costs associated with developing and refining AI models.

Increased Autonomy

Self-improving LLMs will operate with a higher degree of autonomy, making them more flexible and capable of adapting to new tasks or domains with minimal human intervention.

Adaptive Learning

These models could adapt to new information or changes in data distribution over time, maintaining or even improving their performance without explicit updates.


LLMs might become better at personalizing content and interactions based on individual user preferences and behaviors, as they learn and evolve through interactions.

What Are the Limitations of LLMs’ Self-Improvement?

Reliance on Self-Consistency

The self-improvement relies heavily on the model’s ability to generate consistent answers through majority voting. If the initial set of generated answers is diverse and lacks a clear consensus, this may lead to suboptimal self-training data.

Potential for Reinforcing Errors

If the LLM generates incorrect answers with high confidence, these can be mistakenly used for further training, potentially propagating and reinforcing errors.

Quality of Unlabeled Data

The performance of self-improvement is dependent on the quality of the unlabeled data. If the data contains biases or is not representative of the task, the self-improvement process may be negatively affected.

Computational Resources

Generating multiple reasoning paths and performing self-consistency checks can be computationally expensive, requiring significant processing power and memory.

Overfitting to Prompts

There is a risk of the LLM overfitting to specific formats or styles of prompts during the self-improvement process, which could reduce its generalizability to new tasks or datasets.

Lack of Human Oversight

While self-improvement aims to reduce human involvement, completely removing human oversight may lead to unanticipated consequences, such as the model developing undesirable behaviors or biases.

Generalization to New Tasks

The self-improvement method may work well for the tasks and datasets it was trained on, but there may be limitations in how well these improvements generalize to entirely new tasks or domains.

Hyperparameter Sensitivity

The method’s effectiveness may be sensitive to the choice of hyperparameters, such as the sampling temperature used during multiple path decoding, which can impact the diversity of generated reasoning paths.

Limitations of Pre-trained Knowledge

The self-improvement process builds upon the knowledge already present in the pre-trained model. If the pre-trained model has gaps in knowledge or exhibits certain biases, these may persist or even be amplified during self-improvement.

Are There Any Alternative Ways to Get Better LLM Performances for My Projects?

The simple answer is: Yes, by using LLM APIs. Novita AI Model APIs allow you to harness the power of differentiated models to enhance your project’s performance without the complexities and costs of building and maintaining the technology in-house.

In addition to multiple model choices, system prompts and adjustable parameters also enable you to customize the best LLM performance according to your needs. Get your free trial on our Playground!


The self-improvement methodology, as demonstrated in the article, showcases how LLMs can autonomously refine their reasoning abilities, leading to enhanced performance across a spectrum of tasks. This process not only accelerates the pace of advancements but also reduces the dependency on human-generated annotations, paving the way for more cost-effective and scalable AI solutions.

However, this advancement comes with its own set of challenges, such as the potential for reinforcing errors and the need for high-quality unlabeled data. As we consider alternative ways to achieve better LLM performances for various projects, utilizing LLM APIs presents a practical approach.

Originally published at Novita AI

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