How to Answer Priority Questions

NCLEX questions are tricky! You will most likely get NCLEX-style questions on all your nursing exams also.
You need the most correct answers and you do this by prioritizing.

You know you are being asked a priority question when the question asks:

  • What is the most important?
  • What is the initial response?
  • Which action should the nurse take first?

When you see these questions, you should immediately think of ABCs as well as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


We all know what the ABCs are, but a refresher is always good.

A: Patent Airway

  • Patent means “open”; the airway is clear!
  • ASK YOURSELF: Can they successfully breathe oxygen in and breathe CO2 out?

B: Breathing

  • Gas exchange taking place inside the lungs
  • ASK YOURSELF: Can gas exchange successfully happen in their lungs?

C : Circulation

  • Can they circulate blood through their body and are their organs being perfused?
  • ASK YOURSELF: Is there a reason that the blood isn’t pumping/circulating in the body? (Example: The heart is working to pump the blood to the vital organs)

Maslow's Hierarchy of Basic Needs

Sometimes the ABCs do not apply, so we use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs instead.

This shows the 5 levels of human needs:

→ Physiological
→ Safety
→ Belonging and Love
→ Self-Esteem
→ Self-Actualization