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Workshop: Attributing Model Behavior at Scale (ATTRIB)

Irreducible Curriculum for Language Model Pretraining

Simin Fan · Martin Jaggi


Automatic data selection and curriculum design for training large language models is challenging, with only a few existing methods showing improvements over standard training.Furthermore, current schemes focus on domain-level selection, overlooking the more fine-grained contributions of each individual training point. It is difficult to apply traditional datapoint selection methods on large language models: most online batch selection methods perform two-times forward or backward passes, which introduces considerable extra costs with large-scale models. To mitigate these obstacles, we propose irreducible curriculum as a curriculum learning algorithm for language model pretraining, which prioritizes samples with higher learnability. Specifically, to avoid prohibitive extra computation overhead, we simulate the sample loss along the main model's training trajectory using a small-scale proxy model. Our experiments on the RedPajama-1B dataset demonstrate a consistent improvement on validation perplexity across all 7 domains compared to random uniform baseline and the anti-curriculum strategy. Our method also reduces the sharpness of the network and illustrates a better 5-shot accuracy on MMLU benchmarks.

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