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Prompt Engineering

Latest Modern Advances in Prompt Engineering: A Comprehensive Guide




Prompt engineering, the art and science of crafting prompts that elicit desired responses from LLMs, has become a crucial area of research and development.

From enhancing reasoning capabilities to enabling seamless integration with external tools and programs, the latest advances in prompt engineering are unlocking new frontiers in artificial intelligence. In this comprehensive technical blog, we'll delve into the latest cutting-edge techniques and strategies that are shaping the future of prompt engineering.

Prompt Engineering

Prompt Engineering

Advanced Prompting Strategies for Complex Problem-Solving

While CoT prompting has proven effective for many reasoning tasks, researchers have explored more advanced prompting strategies to tackle even more complex problems. One such approach is Least-to-Most Prompting, which breaks down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable sub-problems that are solved independently and then combined to reach the final solution.

Another innovative technique is the Tree of Thoughts (ToT) prompting, which allows the LLM to generate multiple lines of reasoning or “thoughts” in parallel, evaluate its own progress towards the solution, and backtrack or explore alternative paths as needed. This approach leverages search algorithms like breadth-first or depth-first search, enabling the LLM to engage in lookahead and backtracking during the problem-solving process.

Integrating LLMs with External Tools and Programs

While LLMs are incredibly powerful, they have inherent limitations, such as an inability to access up-to-date information or perform precise mathematical reasoning. To address these drawbacks, researchers have developed techniques that enable LLMs to seamlessly integrate with external tools and programs.

One notable example is Toolformer, which teaches LLMs to identify scenarios that require the use of external tools, specify which tool to use, provide relevant input, and incorporate the tool's output into the final response. This approach involves constructing a synthetic training dataset that demonstrates the proper use of various text-to-text APIs.

Another innovative framework, Chameleon, takes a “plug-and-play” approach, allowing a central LLM-based controller to generate natural language programs that compose and execute a wide range of tools, including LLMs, vision models, web search engines, and Python functions. This modular approach enables Chameleon to tackle complex, multimodal reasoning tasks by leveraging the strengths of different tools and models.

Fundamental Prompting Strategies

Zero-Shot Prompting

Zero-shot prompting involves describing the task in the prompt and asking the model to solve it without any examples. For instance, to translate “cheese” to French, a zero-shot prompt might be:

Translate the following English word to French: cheese.

This approach is straightforward but can be limited by the ambiguity of task descriptions.

Few-Shot Prompting

Few-shot prompting improves upon zero-shot by including several examples of the task. For example:

Translate the following English words to French:
1. apple => pomme
2. house => maison
3. cheese => fromage

This method reduces ambiguity and provides a clearer guide for the model, leveraging the in-context learning abilities of LLMs.

Instruction Prompting

Instruction prompting explicitly describes the desired output, which is particularly effective with models trained to follow instructions. For example:

Translate the word "cheese" to French. The correct translation is "fromage."

Models like GPT-4 have been specifically fine-tuned to follow such instructions accurately.

Advanced Prompting Techniques

Enhancing Reasoning Capabilities with Chain-of-Thought Prompting

One of the most significant breakthroughs in prompt engineering has been the development of Chain-of-Thought (CoT) prompting. This technique aims to elicit and improve the reasoning capabilities of LLMs by encouraging them to generate a step-by-step thought process or rationale before providing the final answer.

Left: Traditional methods of prompting LLMs rely on generic inputs (0-shot CoT) or necessitate labeled examples (few-shot CoT). Right: The novel approach prompts LLMs to self-create relevant examples prior to problem-solving, removing the need for labeling while customizing examples to each unique problem

Left: Traditional methods of prompting LLMs rely on generic inputs (0-shot CoT) or necessitate labeled examples (few-shot CoT). Right: The novel approach prompts LLMs to self-create relevant examples prior to problem-solving, removing the need for labeling while customizing examples to each unique problem

CoT prompting works by presenting the LLM with examples that include not only the input and output but also the intermediate reasoning steps or “chain of thought” that leads to the solution. By learning from these exemplars, the LLM can then generate its own chain of thought when presented with new problems, improving its ability to tackle complex reasoning tasks.


Input: Natalie has 3 apples, and she wants to share them equally with her 2 friends. How many apples will each person get? Chain of Thought: Okay, let's break this down step-by-step:

  1. Natalie has 3 apples
  2. She wants to share them equally with 2 friends
  3. So there are 3 people in total (Natalie and her 2 friends)
  4. To share the apples equally, we divide the total number of apples (3) by the number of people (3)
  5. 3 divided by 3 is 1
  6. Therefore, each person will get 1 apple. Output: Each person will get 1 apple.

By explicitly generating the reasoning process, LLMs like GPT-3 and Codex have demonstrated significant improvements in arithmetic, commonsense, and symbolic reasoning tasks.


Self-consistency improves the reliability of CoT prompting by generating multiple chains of thought and taking a majority vote on the final answer. This method mitigates the impact of any single incorrect reasoning path.

Least-to-Most Prompting

Least-to-most prompting breaks down complex problems into simpler sub-problems, solving each one sequentially and using the context of previous solutions to inform subsequent steps. This approach is beneficial for multi-step reasoning tasks.

Recent Advances in Prompt Engineering

Prompt engineering is evolving rapidly, and several innovative techniques have emerged to improve the performance of large language models (LLMs). Let's explore some of these cutting-edge methods in detail:

Auto-CoT (Automatic Chain-of-Thought Prompting)

What It Is: Auto-CoT is a method that automates the generation of reasoning chains for LLMs, eliminating the need for manually crafted examples. This technique uses zero-shot Chain-of-Thought (CoT) prompting, where the model is guided to think step-by-step to generate its reasoning chains.

How It Works:

  1. Zero-Shot CoT Prompting: The model is given a simple prompt like “Let's think step by step” to encourage detailed reasoning.
  2. Diversity in Demonstrations: Auto-CoT selects diverse questions and generates reasoning chains for these questions, ensuring a variety of problem types and reasoning patterns.


  • Automation: Reduces the manual effort required to create reasoning demonstrations.
  • Performance: On various benchmark reasoning tasks, Auto-CoT has matched or exceeded the performance of manual CoT prompting.

Complexity-Based Prompting

What It Is: This technique selects examples with the highest complexity (i.e., the most reasoning steps) to include in the prompt. It aims to improve the model's performance on tasks requiring multiple steps of reasoning.

How It Works:

  1. Example Selection: Prompts are chosen based on the number of reasoning steps they contain.
  2. Complexity-Based Consistency: During decoding, multiple reasoning chains are sampled, and the majority vote is taken from the most complex chains.


  • Improved Performance: Substantially better accuracy on multi-step reasoning tasks.
  • Robustness: Effective even under different prompt distributions and noisy data.

Progressive-Hint Prompting (PHP)

What It Is: PHP iteratively refines the model’s answers by using previously generated rationales as hints. This method leverages the model's previous responses to guide it toward the correct answer through multiple iterations.

How It Works:

  1. Initial Answer: The model generates a base answer using a standard prompt.
  2. Hints and Refinements: This base answer is then used as a hint in subsequent prompts to refine the answer.
  3. Iterative Process: This process continues until the answer stabilizes over consecutive iterations.


  • Accuracy: Significant improvements in reasoning accuracy.
  • Efficiency: Reduces the number of sample paths needed, enhancing computational efficiency.

Decomposed Prompting (DecomP)

What It Is: DecomP breaks down complex tasks into simpler sub-tasks, each handled by a specific prompt or model. This modular approach allows for more effective handling of intricate problems.

How It Works:

  1. Task Decomposition: The main problem is divided into simpler sub-tasks.
  2. Sub-Task Handlers: Each sub-task is managed by a dedicated model or prompt.
  3. Modular Integration: These handlers can be optimized, replaced, or combined as needed to solve the complex task.


  • Flexibility: Easy to debug and improve specific sub-tasks.
  • Scalability: Handles tasks with long contexts and complex sub-tasks effectively.

Hypotheses-to-Theories (HtT) Prompting

What It Is: HtT uses a scientific discovery process where the model generates and verifies hypotheses to solve complex problems. This method involves creating a rule library from verified hypotheses, which the model uses for reasoning.

How It Works:

  1. Induction Stage: The model generates potential rules and verifies them against training examples.
  2. Rule Library Creation: Verified rules are collected to form a rule library.
  3. Deduction Stage: The model applies these rules to new problems, using the rule library to guide its reasoning.


  • Accuracy: Reduces the likelihood of errors by relying on a verified set of rules.
  • Transferability: The learned rules can be transferred across different models and problem forms.

Tool-Enhanced Prompting Techniques


Toolformer integrates LLMs with external tools via text-to-text APIs, allowing the model to use these tools to solve problems it otherwise couldn't. For example, an LLM could call a calculator API to perform arithmetic operations.


Chameleon uses a central LLM-based controller to generate a program that composes several tools to solve complex reasoning tasks. This approach leverages a broad set of tools, including vision models and web search engines, to enhance problem-solving capabilities.


GPT4Tools finetunes open-source LLMs to use multimodal tools via a self-instruct approach, demonstrating that even non-proprietary models can effectively leverage external tools for improved performance.

Gorilla and HuggingGPT

Both Gorilla and HuggingGPT integrate LLMs with specialized deep learning models available online. These systems use a retrieval-aware finetuning process and a planning and coordination approach, respectively, to solve complex tasks involving multiple models.

Program-Aided Language Models (PALs) and Programs of Thoughts (PoTs)

In addition to integrating with external tools, researchers have explored ways to enhance LLMs' problem-solving capabilities by combining natural language with programming constructs. Program-Aided Language Models (PALs) and Programs of Thoughts (PoTs) are two such approaches that leverage code to augment the LLM's reasoning process.

PALs prompt the LLM to generate a rationale that interleaves natural language with code (e.g., Python), which can then be executed to produce the final solution. This approach addresses a common failure case where LLMs generate correct reasoning but produce an incorrect final answer.

Similarly, PoTs employ a symbolic math library like SymPy, allowing the LLM to define mathematical symbols and expressions that can be combined and evaluated using SymPy's solve function. By delegating complex computations to a code interpreter, these techniques decouple reasoning from computation, enabling LLMs to tackle more intricate problems effectively.

Understanding and Leveraging Context Windows

LLMs' performance heavily relies on their ability to process and leverage the context provided in the prompt. Researchers have investigated how LLMs handle long contexts and the impact of irrelevant or distracting information on their outputs.

The “Lost in the Middle” phenomenon highlights how LLMs tend to pay more attention to information at the beginning and end of their context, while information in the middle is often overlooked or “lost.” This insight has implications for prompt engineering, as carefully positioning relevant information within the context can significantly impact performance.

Another line of research focuses on mitigating the detrimental effects of irrelevant context, which can severely degrade LLM performance. Techniques like self-consistency, explicit instructions to ignore irrelevant information, and including exemplars that demonstrate solving problems with irrelevant context can help LLMs learn to focus on the most pertinent information.

Improving Writing Capabilities with Prompting Strategies

While LLMs excel at generating human-like text, their writing capabilities can be further enhanced through specialized prompting strategies. One such technique is Skeleton-of-Thought (SoT) prompting, which aims to reduce the latency of sequential decoding by mimicking the human writing process.

SoT prompting involves prompting the LLM to generate a skeleton or outline of its answer first, followed by parallel API calls to fill in the details of each outline element. This approach not only improves inference latency but can also enhance writing quality by encouraging the LLM to plan and structure its output more effectively.

Another prompting strategy, Chain of Density (CoD) prompting, focuses on improving the information density of LLM-generated summaries. By iteratively adding entities into the summary while keeping the length fixed, CoD prompting allows users to explore the trade-off between conciseness and completeness, ultimately producing more informative and readable summaries.

Emerging Directions and Future Outlook

ChatGPT & Advanced Prompt Engineering

Advanced Prompt Engineering

The field of prompt engineering is rapidly evolving, with researchers continuously exploring new frontiers and pushing the boundaries of what's possible with LLMs. Some emerging directions include:

  1. Active Prompting: Techniques that leverage uncertainty-based active learning principles to identify and annotate the most helpful exemplars for solving specific reasoning problems.
  2. Multimodal Prompting: Extending prompting strategies to handle multimodal inputs that combine text, images, and other data modalities.
  3. Automatic Prompt Generation: Developing optimization techniques to automatically generate effective prompts tailored to specific tasks or domains.
  4. Interpretability and Explainability: Exploring prompting methods that improve the interpretability and explainability of LLM outputs, enabling better transparency and trust in their decision-making processes.

As LLMs continue to advance and find applications in various domains, prompt engineering will play a crucial role in unlocking their full potential. By leveraging the latest prompting techniques and strategies, researchers and practitioners can develop more powerful, reliable, and task-specific AI solutions that push the boundaries of what's possible with natural language processing.


The field of prompt engineering for large language models is rapidly evolving, with researchers continually pushing the boundaries of what's possible. From enhancing reasoning capabilities with techniques like Chain-of-Thought prompting to integrating LLMs with external tools and programs, the latest advances in prompt engineering are unlocking new frontiers in artificial intelligence.

I have spent the past five years immersing myself in the fascinating world of Machine Learning and Deep Learning. My passion and expertise have led me to contribute to over 50 diverse software engineering projects, with a particular focus on AI/ML. My ongoing curiosity has also drawn me toward Natural Language Processing, a field I am eager to explore further.