How to avoid students from cheating when taking tests in BookWidgets

Many people use BookWidgets to create interactive tests, ranging from very short tests to quickly poll students’ knowledge, to entire exams. When creating digital exams with BookWidgets, the question arises on how you can best protect your tests against abuse such as copying from other students, looking up answers online, …. In this post, I’ll dive into this topic, and give you some tips and tricks on how to set up an online test environment using BookWidgets, and which additional tools you can use.

Locking students in with Safe Exam Browser

When students open their exam widget in a regular browser, they can always switch to another tab to look up the answers online. Although there isn’t a general way to prevent students from opening a new browser tab, there are still tools out there that you can use to lock your students in, depending on your environment.

A first solution is the Safe Exam Browser. This is a custom web browser environment, especially made to prevent students from opening anything other than the link (in this case the widget exam link) you share with them. It’s a free and available for Mac and Windows computers, and also works on iPhones and iPads.

Installing Safe Exam Browser

First, you’ll have to install the Safe Exam Browser tool on all your school’s or students’ desktops.

Add a start link in the tool (Preferences > General > Start URL). The start link or start URL is the start page that students will see when launching Safe Exam Browser.

Ways to share BookWidgets tests in the Safe Exam Browser

There are several ways to let students take a BookWidgets exam without being able to leave the test.

1.Start URL = Widget link

You can add the BookWidgets link to the widget as the “Start URL,” so students will directly go to the exam when starting up the Safe Exam Browser. Of course, there’s one huge disadvantage: you’ll have to change the Start URL on every desktop when assigning a new exam.

2. Start URL = Learning Management System

The “Start URL” can also be an LMS platform such as Google Classroom, Moodle or Canvas. Enable your students to navigate in their learning management platform so they can find the BookWidgets exam in the right folder. Once they open the online exam, they won’t be able to go back or to open other tabs.

4. Start URL = Webquest

The last option is for teachers that don’t want to add one widget link to every single browser of the desktops in their computer classroom every single time, and for teachers that don’t have an LMS system to use as starting link.

My tip: Create a BookWidgets webquest widget and use its link as starting URL in the Safe Exam Browser. Use the webquest widget to bundle other widgets. The webquest link will stay the same, always, and you can just update it by adding new Bookwidgets quizzes, like the exam, or other widgets like crossword riddles to the webquest. If your exam is more than just 1 quiz you can put them all together in the webquest using the different tabs.

Things you can do with the Safe Exam Browser

Some of these options might come in handy.

  • The safe exam browser can be started from other web browsers and reconfigured individually per exam
  • It has a fullscreen mode or multiple browser windows which can be resized (without any navigation elements or browser tabs on iPads)
  • Filter URLs to allow accessing only specific websites, pages or resources
  • Spell check is disabled but can optionally be allowed as well
  • Can be use with basically any web-based examination system (e.g. Moodle, Google Classroom, …)

And there’s more. You can play around with all the options, like preventing students from quitting or reloading the browser, enabling them to navigate via links to other pages and let them use he dictionary to look up words.

Locking students in with iPads

If your school is using iPads, Apple also offers ways to lock your students into specific apps. In this case, you could use Apple’s tools to lock students into the BookWidgets app, preventing them to escape to their browser while taking the exam.

There are several ways to lock students into apps. When your school has managed Apple IDs, the easiest way is to use the free “Classroom” app for this. Here’s a guide of the Classroom app and how you can monitor your students’ devices. Navigate to page 8 specifically for the launch and lock function.

If your school doesn’t have managed Apple IDs, maybe they can lock iPads using the school’s Apple device management system. You will have to ask your IT administrator to see if this option is available to you.

Finally, you can lock every iPad individually using Guided Access. This works with any iPad or iPhone in any setting, but is also the most work-intensive.

General exam settings in BookWidgets

While creating your Quiz, Worksheet, or Split Worksheet widgets (the best widgets for creating evaluations), the General tab offers a series of settings useful for creating exams.

1. Put questions in a random order

When students sit next to each other while taking your exam on their device, there’s always chance that their eyes ‘accidentally’ shift to their neighbor’s screen, making copying easy. However, when configuring your widget to have questions in a random order, each student gets a different question order when they open their widget. This makes it harder for students to see what their neighbour is answering on the corresponding questions.

You can also enable the random answer order option in all the multiple-choice question types. Even if the students can recognize their neighbour’s question, it’ll be hard to copy the answer.

2. Exam mode

The exam mode limits the time students have to complete their exam. When the countdown in the top-right of their widget reaches zero, students are forced to stop working: they won’t be able to add or edit their answers on the exam, but can only submit their test.

An extra bonus is that seeing the time slip away will get them to focus more on their work instead of looking up answers online.

3. Correction options

By default, students get to see the right answers after submitting them. During exams, you probably want to disable this option. If you’re using automatically graded questions, they will still be graded, but students won’t be able to see them after they submitted their answers.

You can also add a password that prevents students to go back and see the questions in your exam. This way, they won’t be able to pass the questions down to another student.

4. Save and restore answers

While a student executes a widget, their answers are stored so they can continue working at a later point. Unless you are using an LMS (such as Google Classroom, Moodle, Canvas, …) to share your widgets, these answers are stored locally in the student’s browser. This means you have to be careful: if the second class of students opens the same widget on the same device, they can see the answers of whoever was using the device before them. If you’re sharing devices, you should therefore always make sure the answers are cleared (by clicing the trashcan icon in the top right).

Turning off the saving and restoring of answers would obviously also avoid reusing previous answers, but beware: if something goes wrong, or the student simply reloads the widget, their answers will be lost too. I therefore wouldn’t recommend this.

5. Startup password

Many teachers use BookWidgets inside another LMS like Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology or Smartschool. Those platforms all have the option to share an exercise, and still hide it for the students. When you’re in the class, you can then log into these platforms and grant students access.

A different way to grant students access is by using the startup password option. When you configure a startup password for your widget, students can only see the question once they entered the password. This can help restricting access to widgets in between different classes taking an exam. Make sure you change the password after each exam session, so they can’t pass it on to the next group.


By using external tools and setting the right options, you can use BookWidgets to create exams to test your students knowledge. If you have more tips that aren’t mentioned, let us know!

Lucie Renard

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