Keywords: chain of thought (CoT), zero-shot learning, multi-step reasoning, arithmetic, commonsense reasoning, prompting, large language models (LLMs)
TL;DR: We propose a single zero-shot prompt that elicits effective chain of thought reasoning across diverse benchmarks that require multi-step thinking.
Abstract: Pretrained large language models (LLMs) are widely used in many sub-fields of natural language processing (NLP) and generally known as excellent few-shot learners with task-specific exemplars. Notably, chain of thought (CoT) prompting, a recent technique for eliciting complex multi-step reasoning through step-by-step answer examples, achieved the state-of-the-art performances in arithmetics and symbolic reasoning, difficult system-2 tasks that do not follow the standard scaling laws for LLMs. While these successes are often attributed to LLMs' ability for few-shot learning, we show that LLMs are decent zero-shot reasoners by simply adding ``Let's think step by step'' before each answer. Experimental results demonstrate that our Zero-shot-CoT, using the same single prompt template, significantly outperforms zero-shot LLM performances on diverse benchmark reasoning tasks including arithmetics (MultiArith, GSM8K, AQUA-RAT, SVAMP), symbolic reasoning (Last Letter, Coin Flip), and other logical reasoning tasks (Date Understanding, Tracking Shuffled Objects), without any hand-crafted few-shot examples, e.g. increasing the accuracy on MultiArith from 17.7% to 78.7% and GSM8K from 10.4% to 40.7% with large-scale InstructGPT model (text-davinci-002), as well as similar magnitudes of improvements with another off-the-shelf large model, 540B parameter PaLM. The versatility of this single prompt across very diverse reasoning tasks hints at untapped and understudied fundamental zero-shot capabilities of LLMs, suggesting high-level, multi-task broad cognitive capabilities may be extracted by simple prompting. We hope our work not only serves as the minimal strongest zero-shot baseline for the challenging reasoning benchmarks, but also highlights the importance of carefully exploring and analyzing the enormous zero-shot knowledge hidden inside LLMs before crafting finetuning datasets or few-shot exemplars.
Supplementary Material: pdf