Around one in six pupils in England missed out on the first choice of secondary school this year, official figures show.
Statistics published by the Department for Education reveal that 14.7% of 11-year-olds failed to get a place at their first preference.
The figures also show that overall, 4.1% did not receive an offer from one of their top three preferred schools.
In total, around 74,000 children missed out on a place at their first-choice secondary school, the figures show.
More than 503,000 youngsters in England received a secondary school offer on March 1, on what is commonly known as national offer day.
Of those, 85.3% won a place at their first choice, up 0.7% on 2011, while 95.9% received an offer at one of their top three choices, up 0.3% on last year.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said he was pleased that more children had been offered a place at their preferred school this year.
But he added: "Unfortunately, whilst progress is being made, we are still some way short of making this a reality for all pupils. Around 74,000 children are still unable to attend the secondary school they want.
"Parents are faced with an extremely competitive and stressful process for securing a place for their children. We want to ease this pressure by creating more good school places, which is the driver behind all our reforms to the education system."
The figures also show that children in the North East have the highest chance of gaining a place at their chosen school - 95.1% in the region got their first choice.
Pupils in London have the highest chance of missing out - just two-thirds (67.2%) were offered a place at their first preference this year.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "The Tory-led Government's approach to schools is simply haphazard.
"Parents will be worried that increasing pressure on school places, the fact that the Government is not prioritising real need, and there is no plan to raise standards in all schools, will only make this situation worse.
"The Government must prioritise the majority of schools in England, not just a few pet projects."
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