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Are you smarter than a presidential candidate?

In a presidential season rife with confrontation, verbal barbs and endowment innuendo, one thing has stayed the same — nobody is speaking above a high school level. And one front-runner is solidly in elementary school territory.

The presidential candidates — both Republican and Democrat — have mostly been speaking at a middle school grade level, according to an CNBC analysis using debate transcripts through March 4.

On the GOP side, Ted Cruz leads the way for most likely to use big and complicated words. It's not surprising, given that Cruz was his high school's valedictorian, has degrees from Princeton and Harvard and was talented enough to represent the state of Texas in oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

What's surprising then? For all that experience and talent, his speaking level averaged around ninth grade.

At the other end of the spectrum is front-runner Donald Trump, who's clocked in averaging a fifth-grade level of vocabulary. His approach has been easy speech, small sentences and short words. Maybe that's the key; after all, he's leading many national polls.

On the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton has been averaging just over a ninth-grade speaking level. But the grade level depends partly on sentence length, which is awfully hard for the Republicans who tend to bicker and talk over each other in debates.

Political discourse hasn't always been this low. Research shows that over time, speech has become simpler. And simpler.

Contrast that to the grade levels of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy statement. The central bank is writing at a 17th-grade level — or basically grad school.