Top 9 Fine-tuning Interview Questions and Answers

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As someone deeply immersed in the world of artificial intelligence, I’ve seen firsthand how fine-tuning revolutionizes pre-trained large language models (LLMs). Bridging the gap between general AI training and specific tasks sparked my interest in exploring fine-tuning. Fine-tuning is like specializing in a field after getting a broad education. LLMs adapt their general knowledge to specific tasks or datasets, boosting their performance, accuracy, and efficiency in various applications. In this article, I have commonly asked fine-tuning interview questions with answers for you.

Let’s begin.

Fine-tuning Interview Questions

Q1. What is Fine-tuning?

Ans. Fine-tuning adjusts a pre-trained large language model (LLM) to perform better in a specific area by continuing its training with a focused dataset related to the task. The initial training phase equips the LLM with a broad understanding of language from a large body of data. Fine-tuning, however, allows the model to become proficient in a specific field by modifying its parameters to align with the unique demands and characteristics of that area.

In this phase, the model refines its weights using a dataset tailored to the particular task, enabling it to grasp distinctive linguistic features, terminology, and context crucial for the task. This enhancement reduces the gap between a universal language model and one tailored to specific needs, making the LLM more effective and precise in generating outputs for the chosen application. Fine-tuning maximizes the effectiveness of LLMs in specific tasks, improves their utility, and customizes their functions to address particular organizational or academic needs.

Q2. Describe the Fine-tuning process.

Ans. Fine-tuning a pre-trained model for a specific application or use case entails a detailed procedure to optimize results. Given below are fine-tuning steps:

  • Data preparation: Selecting and preprocessing the dataset involves cleansing, handling missing values, and arranging text to meet input criteria. Data augmentation enhances resilience.
  • Choosing the right pre-trained model: Consider size, training data nature, and performance on similar tasks.
  • Identifying fine-tuning parameters: Set parameters like learning rate, epochs, and batch size. Freezing some layers prevents overfitting.
  • Validation: Test the fine-tuned model against a validation dataset, tracking metrics like accuracy, loss, precision, and recall.
  • Model iteration: Adjust parameters based on validation outcomes, including learning rate, batch size, and freezing layers.
  • Model deployment: Consider hardware, scalability, real-time functionality, and security protocols for deploying the fine-tuned model.

By adhering to this structured approach, engineers can methodically enhance the model, continuously refining its performance to meet the demands of the desired application.

Q3. What are the different Fine-tuning methods?

Ans. Fine-tuning large language models (LLMs) is a powerful technique used to adapt pre-trained models to specific tasks or domains, enhancing their performance and applicability. This process involves modifying a pre-trained model so that it can better perform a specific function, leveraging its general capabilities while focusing on particular nuances of a dataset. Below, we outline various fine-tuning methods commonly employed in enhancing LLMs.

Supervised Fine-Tuning

Supervised fine-tuning directly involves further training the large language model (LLM) on a new dataset containing labeled data relevant to the specific task. In this approach, the model adjusts its weights based on the mistakes it makes while predicting the labels of the new training samples. This method is especially useful for tasks with precise labels, such as sentiment analysis or classification tasks, or in situations where the outcomes are linked to the input data.

Techniques within Supervised Fine-Tuning:

  • Hyperparameter Tuning: Adjusting model parameters like learning rate and batch size to optimize performance.
  • Transfer Learning: Using a pre-trained model and fine-tuning it on a smaller, task-specific dataset.
  • Multi-task Learning: Fine-tuning the model on multiple tasks simultaneously to leverage commonalities across tasks.
  • Few-shot Learning: Training the model on a very small amount of labeled data, typical of scenarios where data collection is challenging.

Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF)

RLHF is a more complex form of fine-tuning where models are adjusted based on feedback from humans rather than static data labels. This approach is used to align the model’s outputs with human preferences or desired outcomes. It typically involves:

  • Reward Modeling: Training the model to predict human preferences on different outputs.
  • Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO): An algorithm that helps in adjusting the policy in incremental steps, focusing on improving the expected reward without making drastic changes.
  • Comparative Ranking and Preference Learning: These techniques involve humans comparing and ranking different model outputs, which the model then uses to learn the preferred outputs.

Parameter-Efficient Fine-Tuning (PEFT)

PEFT techniques aim to update a smaller subset of model parameters, which helps in reducing computational costs and preserving much of the pre-trained model’s knowledge. Techniques include:

  • Adapter Layers: Inserting small, trainable layers between existing layers of the model that are fine-tuned while keeping the rest of the model frozen.
  • LoRA: Low-Rank Adaptation where the model is augmented with low-rank matrices to modify the behavior of its layers without extensive retraining.
  • Prompt Tuning: Adjusting prompts are used to elicit specific responses from the model, effectively steering it without extensive retraining.

Fine-tuning LLMs involves a variety of methods tailored to specific needs and constraints of the task at hand. Whether through supervised learning, leveraging human feedback, or employing parameter-efficient strategies, each method has its strengths and appropriate use cases. The choice of fine-tuning approach depends largely on the specific requirements of the application, the available data, and the desired outcome.

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Q4. When should you go for fine-tuning?

Optimal Scenarios for Fine-Tuning

Fine-tuning should be considered when specific enhancements or adaptations of pre-trained models are required to meet unique task specifications or domain requirements. Here are several scenarios where fine-tuning becomes necessary:

  • Specialization Requirement: If the task demands a deep understanding of niche topics or specialized vocabularies (e.g., legal, medical, or technical fields), fine-tuning helps tailor the model to these specific contexts by training on domain-specific datasets.
  • Improving Model Performance: When base models do not perform adequately on certain tasks due to the generic nature of their initial training, fine-tuning with task-specific data can significantly enhance their accuracy and efficiency.
  • Data Efficiency: Fine-tuning is highly beneficial in scenarios where data is scarce. It allows models to adapt to new tasks using considerably smaller datasets compared to training from scratch.
  • Reducing Prediction Errors: It is particularly useful to minimize errors in model outputs, especially in high-stakes environments where precision is crucial, such as predictive healthcare analytics.
  • Customization for User-Specific Needs: In cases where the output needs to align closely with user expectations or specific operational requirements, fine-tuning adjusts the model outputs accordingly, improving relevance and user satisfaction.

Decision Points for Fine-Tuning

  • Presence of Labeled Data: Fine-tuning requires a labeled dataset that reflects the nuances of the intended application. The availability and quality of this data are critical for the success of the fine-tuning process.
  • Initial Model Performance: Evaluate the performance of the pre-trained model on the target task. If the performance is below the required threshold, fine-tuning is advisable.
  • Resource Availability: Consider computational and time resources, as fine-tuning can be resource-intensive. It’s crucial to assess whether the potential improvements justify the additional costs.
  • Long-term Utility: If the model needs to be robust against the evolving nature of data and tasks, periodic fine-tuning might be necessary to maintain its relevance and effectiveness.

The decision to fine-tune a model should be based on specific task requirements, data availability, initial model performance, resource considerations, and the strategic importance of model outputs. Fine-tuning offers a path to significantly enhance model utility without the need for extensive retraining from scratch, making it a practical choice in many machine-learning workflows.

Q5. What is the difference between Fine-tuning and Transfer Learning

AspectTransfer LearningFine-Tuning
DefinitionUtilizing a pre-trained model on a new, related task by retraining only the model’s final layers.Further training a pre-trained model across multiple layers to adapt to a new, specific task.
Training ApproachTypically involves freezing the pre-trained layers except for the newly added layers.Involves unfreezing and updating several of the pre-trained layers alongside the new layers.
PurposeTo leverage general knowledge from the pre-trained model without extensive modification.To adapt the deep features of the model more extensively to new specific data characteristics.
Layer ModificationOnly the new, task-specific layers are trained while original model layers are often frozen.Several layers of the original model are unfrozen and updated to learn task-specific nuances.
Domain SimilarityBest suited for tasks that are somewhat similar to the original tasks of the pre-trained model.Ideal when the new task is closely related to the original task and detailed adaptation is needed.
Computational CostLower, since fewer layers are trained.Higher, as more layers require updating which increases computational load.
Training TimeGenerally shorter because only a few layers need to be trained.Longer, due to the need to train multiple layers across potentially larger datasets.
Dataset SizeEffective with smaller datasets as the base knowledge is leveraged without extensive retraining.More effective with larger datasets that can fine-tune the model without overfitting risks.
OutcomeQuick adaptation with moderate improvements in model performance relative to the new task.Potentially significant performance improvements if the model successfully adapts to new data.
Typical UsageThe initial step in adapting a model to a new task is to assess viability before more extensive training.Employed when specific and considerable model adjustments are required for optimal performance.

Q6. Explaining RLHF in Detail.

Ans. Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF) is a machine learning technique that involves training a “reward model” with direct human feedback and then using it to optimize the performance of an artificial intelligence (AI) agent through reinforcement learning. RLHF, also known as reinforcement learning from human preferences, has gained prominence in enhancing the relevance, accuracy, and ethics of large language models (LLMs), particularly in their use as chatbots.

How RLHF Works

Training an LLM with RLHF typically occurs in four phases:

  • Pre-training Models: RLHF is generally employed to fine-tune and optimize a pre-trained model rather than as an end-to-end training method. For example, InstructGPT used RLHF to enhance the pre-existing GPT model
  • Reward Model Training: Human feedback powers a reward function in reinforcement learning, requiring the design of an effective reward model to translate human preference into a numerical reward signal.
  • Policy Optimization: The final hurdle of RLHF involves determining how and how much the reward model should be used to update the AI agent’s policy. Proximal policy optimization (PPO) is one of the most successful algorithms used for this purpose.
  • Validation, Tuning, and Deployment: Once the AI model is trained with RLHF, it undergoes validation, tuning, and deployment to ensure its effectiveness and ethical considerations.

Limitations of RLHF

Despite its impressive results in training AI agents for complex tasks, RLHF has limitations, including the expensive nature of human preference data and the challenge of designing an effective reward model due to the subjective nature of human values.

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Q7. Explaining PEFT in Detail.

Ans. PEFT, or Parameter-Efficient Fine-Tuning, is a technique used to adapt large language models (LLMs) for specific tasks while using limited computing resources. This method addresses the computational and memory-intensive nature of fine-tuning large models by only fine-tuning a small number of additional parameters while freezing most of the pre-trained model. This prevents catastrophic forgetting in large models and enables fine-tuning with limited computing resources.

Core Concepts of PEFT

PEFT is based on the idea of adapting large language models for specific tasks in an efficient manner. The key concepts of PEFT include:

  • Modular Nature: PEFT allows the same pre-trained model to be adapted for multiple tasks by adding small task-specific weights, avoiding the need to store full copies.
  • Quantization Methods: Techniques like 4-bit precision quantization can further reduce memory usage, making it possible to fine-tune models with limited resources.
  • PEFT Techniques: PEFT integrates popular techniques like LoRA, Prefix Tuning, AdaLoRA, Prompt Tuning, MultiTask Prompt Tuning, and LoHa with Transformers and Accelerate.

Benefits of PEFT

PEFT offers several benefits, including:

  • Efficient Adaptation: It enables efficient adaptation of large language models using limited compute resources.
  • Wider Accessibility: PEFT opens up large language model capabilities to a much wider audience by making it possible to fine-tune models with limited resources.
  • Reduced Memory Usage: Quantization methods and the modular nature of PEFT contribute to reduced memory usage, making it more feasible to fine-tune models with limited resources.

Implementation of PEFT

The implementation of PEFT involves several steps, including:

  • Model Fine-Tuning: PEFT involves fine-tuning a small number of additional parameters while freezing most of the pre-trained model.
  • PEFT Configuration: Creating a PEFT configuration that wraps or trains the model, allowing for efficient adaptation of large language models.
  • 4-bit Quantization: Implementing 4-bit quantization techniques to overcome challenges related to loading large language models on consumer or Colab GPUs.

Q8. Difference between Prompt Engineering vs RAG vs Fine-tuning.

AspectPrompt EngineeringRAGFine-tuning
DefinitionProvides specific instructions or cues to guide the model’s generation processCombines retrieval-based and generation-based approaches in natural language processingInvolves adjusting a pre-trained model with domain-specific data
Skill Level RequiredLowModerateModerate to High
Resource IntensiveLowConsiderableHigh
Data DependencyModerateHighHigh
ChallengesInconsistency, Limited Customization, Dependence on the Model’s KnowledgeData processing and computing resources, Knowledge cut-off, Hallucination, Security risksData availability, Computational resources, Complexity of the task
Contribution to Overcoming Limitations of Large Language ModelsProvides specific instructions to guide the model’s outputLeverages external knowledge for enhanced generation capabilitiesEnables customization for domain-specific tasks
Use CaseEnhancing the performance of LLMsMitigating the limitations of large LLMs and enhancing their performance in specific use casesCustomizing LLMs for domain-specific tasks

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Q9. What is LoRA and QLoRA?

Ans. LoRA and QLoRA are advanced techniques used for fine-tuning Large Language Models (LLMs) to enhance efficiency and performance in the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP).


Low-Rank Adaptation is a method that introduces new trainable parameters to adapt the model without increasing its overall parameter count. This approach ensures that the model size remains unchanged while still benefiting from parameter-efficient fine-tuning. In essence, LoRA allows for significant modifications to a model’s behavior and performance without the traditional overhead associated with training large models. It operates as an adapter approach, maintaining model accuracy while reducing memory requirements.


QLoRA, or Quantized LoRA, builds upon the foundation of LoRA by incorporating quantization techniques to further reduce memory usage while maintaining or even enhancing model performance. This technique introduces concepts like 4-bit Normal Float, Double Quantization, and Paged Optimizers to achieve high computational efficiency with low storage requirements. QLoRA is preferred for fine-tuning LLMs as it offers efficiency without compromising the model’s accuracy. Comparative studies have revealed that QLoRA maintains model performance while significantly reducing memory requirements, making it a preferred choice for fine-tuning LLMs.

Significance of LoRA and QLoRA

These techniques, along with other variants such as LongLoRA, have revolutionized the fine-tuning process for LLMs, offering efficiency and tailored performance with reduced computational demands. By leveraging fine-tuning with LoRA and QLoRA, businesses can customize LLMs to their unique requirements, enhancing performance and enabling more personalized and efficient services. Additionally, LoRA and QLoRA play a crucial role in democratizing access to advanced models, mitigating challenges associated with training large models and opening new avenues for innovation and application in the field of NLP.

Also Read: Parameter-Efficient Fine-Tuning of Large Language Models with LoRA and QLoRA


I hope these fine-tuning interview questions provide you with valuable insights into this critical aspect of AI development for your next interview. Fine-tuning is crucial in refining large language models for specific tasks. Through supervised learning, reinforcement from human feedback, or parameter-efficient techniques, fine-tuning allows AI tools to be customized in ways that broad-spectrum pre-training cannot achieve alone.

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