Distilling Knowledge from Large LLMs: Fine-tuning Mistral with LoRA

As large language models (LLMs) continue to advance, there is a growing need to distill their knowledge into smaller, more efficient models suitable for real-world applications. One promising approach is knowledge distillation via fine-tuning using techniques like LoRA (Low-Rank Adaptation). In this article, we’ll dive into best practices for fine-tuning the 7B parameter Mistral model with LoRA.

The LoRA Advantage

Traditional fine-tuning updates all the weights of a pre-trained LLM, which can be computationally expensive and data-hungry, especially for large models. LoRA circumvents this by injecting trainable rank decomposition matrices into the LLM layers, enabling efficient adaptation to new tasks without modifying the original model weights.

Compared to full fine-tuning, LoRA requires significantly less compute and data, making it well-suited for fine-tuning models like Mistral. It has been shown to match or even exceed the performance of full fine-tuning on various tasks while using orders of magnitude fewer trainable parameters.

Selecting the Optimal LoRA Rank

The LoRA rank (r) determines the number of trainable parameters and directly impacts the model’s capacity to capture task-specific knowledge. A higher rank allows the model to better approximate the ideal fine-tuned weights, potentially improving performance. However, it also increases memory requirements and the risk of overfitting.

For Mistral, common ranks used are r=64 or r=128, though some have experimented with higher values like r=256 which can finetune around 8% of the model’s parameters. The optimal rank depends on the complexity of the task and dataset size – simple tasks may work well with lower r, while more complex ones may benefit from higher r.

Dataset Size and Quality

While LoRA is data-efficient compared to full fine-tuning, having sufficient high-quality training data is still crucial for achieving good performance. For a 7B model like Mistral, researchers recommend at least 50,000 examples for reasonable results, with 100,000+ examples often yielding better performance.

However, even smaller datasets of 1,000 – 10,000 carefully curated examples can be effective when using LoRA, outperforming full fine-tuning which requires much more data. Data quality and relevance to the target task are more important than sheer quantity – high-quality, curated datasets can outperform larger, noisier ones.

Using too little data (e.g. less than 1,000 examples) may lead to overfitting or poor performance. For very large datasets (>1M examples), full fine-tuning may be more effective than LoRA, depending on available compute resources.

Putting it All Together

So, what are the best practices for fine-tuning Mistral with LoRA? Based on current research, a good starting point could be:

  • LoRA rank (r) = 128
  • 10,000 – 100,000 high-quality, task-relevant examples

During training, it’s essential to monitor performance on a held-out validation set to select the best checkpoint and avoid overfitting. Additionally, increasing the LoRA alpha (lora_alpha) can help counteract a lower rank but may introduce instability.

Distillation Approaches

Beyond LoRA, researchers have explored various distillation approaches for transferring knowledge from large LLMs to smaller models:

  1. Reverse KL Divergence: Replacing the standard forward KL divergence loss with reverse KL can prevent the student model from overestimating low-probability regions of the teacher LLM’s distribution, making it more suitable for generative tasks.
  2. Multi-Task Learning with Rationales: Training the student on two tasks – label prediction and rationale generation, where rationales are intermediate reasoning steps extracted from the LLM teacher. This creates an explicit connection between inputs and outputs.
  3. Data Augmentation: Leveraging data augmentation to generate context-rich, skill-specific training data from the LLM teacher. This helps the student model approximate the teacher’s contextual abilities and ethical alignment.

The Future of LLM Distillation

As LLMs continue to grow in size and capability, techniques like LoRA and knowledge distillation will become increasingly important for making these models accessible and deployable across a wide range of applications.

By following best practices, leveraging the latest research, and adhering to legal and ethical considerations when working with LLM outputs, practitioners can effectively distill the knowledge from large models like Mistral into smaller, more efficient models tailored to their specific needs.

The possibilities for LLM distillation are vast, paving the way for a future where the power of large language models is available to everyone, regardless of computational resources.

DoRA: Weight-Decomposed Low-Rank Adaptation

  • Objective Exploration: Investigates the disparities between full fine-tuning (FT) and LoRA through a novel weight decomposition analysis.
  • Innovative Method: Introduces Weight-Decomposed LowRank Adaptation (DoRA), which splits pre-trained weights into magnitude and direction for fine-tuning.
  • Strategic Approach: Employs LoRA for directional updates, significantly reducing the number of trainable parameters.
  • Enhanced Performance: By adopting DoRA, it improves learning capacity and training stability of LoRA, without extra inference costs.
  • Proven Superiority: Demonstrates that DoRA outperforms LoRA in fine-tuning LLAMA, LLaVA, and VL-BART on tasks like commonsense reasoning, visual instruction tuning, and image/video-text understanding.
  • https://arxiv.org/abs/2402.09353

https://github.com/catid/dora

LiPO: Listwise Preference Optimization through Learning-to-Rank

  • Innovative Framework: LiPO revolutionizes language model alignment by approaching it as a listwise ranking challenge.
  • Cutting-Edge Techniques: Utilizes advanced LTR algorithms for a more refined optimization process.
  • Superior Performance: LiPO-X method surpasses traditional methods in aligning models with human preferences.

Enhanced Learning Efficiency: Offers a more effective learning paradigm from ranked response lists.

  • Scalable Solution: Shows promise for scaling up to larger language model policies across various applications

https://arxiv.org/html/2402.01878v1#S1