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To get into the Ravenclaw dormitory, they need to answer a riddle. What if they don’t know the answer? How will they get in?

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I'd say they should move to one of the other houses. By not being able to answer the riddle, they're showing that they don't actually belong in Ravenclaw. – Mooz Mar 21 at 2:10
What does a Gryffindor do when they forget the password for their dormitory? – Pete Becker Mar 21 at 14:48
Yup. Same for Ravenclaw. – Pete Becker Mar 21 at 14:56
well i kknow that now that i heard he other answer – sluger Mar 21 at 14:58
I think they click the "I forgot my password" link, at which point they have to wait for an owl to arrive in their inbox with further steps. – matrixugly Mar 21 at 15:39
up vote 97 down vote accepted

You wait for somebody else to show up.

When Harry first encounters the eagle, Luna explains what happens if you get the question wrong. If you don’t know the answer, you wait for somebody else who does. Same as all the other dormitories, except (this being Ravenclaw) there’s a vague hope that you’ll learn something by doing so:

“What? Isn’t there just a password?”

“Oh no, you’ve got to answer a question,” said Luna.

“What if you get it wrong?”

“Well, you have to wait for somebody who gets it right,” said Luna. “That way you learn, you see?”

Deathly Hallows, chapter 29 (The Lost Diadem)

According to the Pottermore welcome letter for Ravenclaw, it’s not unusual to find people stumped by the riddle, waiting for somebody to come along and help them out:

It’s not unusual to find twenty people standing outside the common room door, all trying to work out the answer to the day’s question together. This is a great way to meet fellow Ravenclaws from other years, and to learn from them – although it is a bit annoying if you’ve forgotten your Quidditch robes and need to get in and out in a hurry. In fact, I’d advise you to triple-check your bag for everything you need before leaving Ravenclaw Tower.

Note the phrase “the day’s question”. It sounds as if the raven changes the riddle once a day, which sounds about right. Most people will leave Ravenclaw Tower at least once a day, and so get the benefit of the day’s riddle, it won’t stagnate because everybody already knows it, and it’s not changing enough to be too annoying.

(And having said that, @chirlu points out in a comment that this is directly contradicted by the encounter in Deathly Hallows.)

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Totally forgot Luna was a Ravenclaw. – stacey Mar 20 at 17:10
This seems a bit problematic in case everybody get it wrong – Oriol Mar 20 at 22:40
@Oriol the Ravenclaw text on Pottermore (I have no idea if it can be found if you don't have a Pottermore account that's a Ravenclaw) says that it's not uncommon for groups of people to be stuck at the entrance, and that you triple-check your bag before leaving because you might not be able to get back in easily. But there is no mention of everyone ever getting locked out. Someone would probably end up opening from inside anyway. – Pwassonne Mar 20 at 22:59
@Pwassonne On the internet, everything can be found. – Rand al'Thor Mar 21 at 1:45
@randal'thor I don't think they got internet at Hogwarts though, so you can't just Google the answer (mainly because Google wasn't around until the start of the 1998-1999 school year). – Thomas Jacobs Mar 21 at 9:51

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