Lesson 4

Context Limits and Their Impact on Prompt Engineering

Introduction to Context Limits and Implications

In the world of Large Language Models (LLMs), understanding context limits is crucial. Whether you're working with GPT-3.5, GPT-4, Claude 2, or LLaMA, all of these models have a specific limit on how much text they can consider at one time when generating responses. This limit often influences how one designs prompts, and understanding it can significantly improve your interaction with LLMs. This lesson will clarify what context limits are, how they have been evolving, and practical methods to navigate these limitations.

Understanding Context Limits

A context limit refers to the maximum amount of text an LLM can consider when generating a response. For example, as of the last update, GPT-3.5 has a context window of approximately 4096 tokens.

This lesson, for example, is roughly 500 words and 650 tokens.

It's important to realize a token isn't just a word, as you can see in the image above. It can be a word, part of a word, or punctuation. This means that the actual text a model can consider may be shorter than you initially anticipated though as a general rule of thumb, it's okay to think of tokens as words.

Historical Evolution of Context Limits

The progression of context limit enhancement over time has been remarkable. Here's a simplified table illustrating the changes:

ModelContext window (Tokens)
Mistral 7B8k
Claude 2100k

This evolution has opened up more opportunities in generating coherent and contextually rich responses. However, most LLM providers charge by the number of tokens used, AND often times you are working with a model that doesn't have a large context window so you need strategies to optimize your prompts to work around these limits.

Strategies for Overcoming Context Limits

Navigating the context limits of LLMs requires strategic prompt design and understanding of content compression. Here are ways to overcome these limitations:

  1. Prompt Compression: Simplify your prompts to contain only the most essential information. This involves summarizing lengthy backgrounds or context into concise statements that retain the core message.

  2. Focused Queries: Instead of asking broad, unfocused questions, pinpoint your inquiry. Specific questions tend to yield more accurate and relevant responses within the context limit.

  3. Iterative Prompting: Break down complex tasks into smaller, sequential prompts. By iteratively refining the query, you can guide the LLM through a logical sequence of thought, even with a strict token limit.


While context limits might seem like significant restrictions, they also encourage us to be more thoughtful and effective communicators. As LLMs continue to evolve, so will our strategies for interacting with them. By understanding the implications of context limits and adapting our prompt design accordingly, we can craft precise prompts that yield relevant, high-quality outputs.

Enjoy this lesson? Now it's time to practice with Cosmo!

Practice is how you turn knowledge into actual skills.