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Demystifying GPT Self-Repair for Code Generation

Theo X. Olausson, Jeevana Priya Inala, Chenglong Wang, Jianfeng Gao, Armando Solar-Lezama. 2023


Large Language Models (LLMs) have shown remarkable aptitude in code generation but still struggle on challenging programming tasks. Self-repair – in which the model debugs and fixes mistakes in its own code – has recently become a popular way to boost performance in these settings. However, only very limited studies on how and when self-repair works effectively exist in the literature, and one might wonder to what extent a model is really capable of providing accurate feedback on why the code is wrong when that code was generated by the same model. In this paper, we analyze GPT-3.5 and GPT-4’s ability to perform self-repair on APPS, a challenging dataset consisting of diverse coding challenges. To do so, we first establish a new evaluation strategy dubbed pass@t that measures the pass rate of the tasks against the total number of tokens sampled from the model, enabling a fair comparison to purely sampling-based approaches. With this evaluation strategy, we find that the effectiveness of self-repair is only seen in GPT-4. We also observe that self-repair is bottlenecked by the feedback stage; using GPT-4 to give feedback on the programs generated by GPT-3.5 and using expert human programmers to give feedback on the programs generated by GPT-4, we unlock significant performance gains.

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