The American Council on Education yesterday said a newspaper report listing five math questions that it claimed former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson could not answer last month in failing his General Education Development (GED) exam was erroneous.

The five math questions -- among the 56 on the test -- reprinted by the New York Daily News Sunday are not included in the current or recent battery of GED tests, or in the practice test available to the public, said David Merkowitz, spokesman for the Washington-based organization, which publishes, distributes and manages the tests. Merkowitz said the questions were not phrased as they would be on the GED and added that the multiple-choice questions have five possible answers, not four as reported in the Daily News.

If Tyson had passed the high school equivalency exam, he would have had three months taken off his six-year jail sentence for raping a beauty pageant contestant in Indianapolis in July 1991, making him eligible to be released from the Indiana Youth Center in Plainfield in February.

The Daily News reported Saturday that Tyson failed the GED because of a low score on the mathematics section of the 7 1/2-hour, five-part test administered over two days. To illustrate the difficulty of the math section, the newspaper reprinted five questions that Tyson purportedly could not answer. The newspaper cited Bert Sugar, publisher of Boxing Illustrated, as its source. Sugar said anybody who could answer the questions "probably could qualify as a nuclear scientist."

The Associated Press later in the day moved a report based on the Daily News story, and the wire- service story received prominent play Sunday in The Washington Post and other newspapers nationwide.

Sugar stood by his story yesterday, and Daily News editor-in-chief Martin Dunn said the newspaper stood by Sugar.

"Mr. Sugar stands by where he got {the questions} from and what we reported, and that's good enough for me," Dunn said.

In the Daily News story, Sugar cited as his source a friend at the New York State Department of Education who "gave, or better put, bootlegged to me the section Tyson failed." Sugar declined to reveal the source, saying he did not want to get the person in trouble.

"If somebody perpetrated a hoax, it may have been on {Sugar}. It's a lot of trouble for a hoax," said Daily News associate sports editor Bill Gallo, who wrote the story. "He's tipped me on a couple of things that were no hoaxes. In my experience, he's never delivered a hoax to me."

Sugar said he would stand by his source until the testing service permitted an impartial observer to verify that the five questions he supplied to the Daily News did not exist. Sugar said he thinks the testing service doesn't want to admit the test had been compromised.

Sugar also said that all he knew was published in the Daily News story and that he was releasing the information to correct the false impression that Tyson had failed the entire test.

Merkowitz declined the request for an impartial observer, saying that no other national testing service would acquiesce to one either. He also said that ACE's concern was for the 800,000 people who take the GED test annually and the employers who rely on the integrity of the tests.

"We just want to be sure that nobody is under the impression that the questions on these tests are easily obtainable or that those questions actually appear on the test."

Tyson took the GED test for the first time March 15-16 at the Plainfield facility. He would be the only person to receive a copy of the results, and he can take the test again in three months. The test's five sections are math, science, writing, social studies and literature and the arts.

Attempts to reach Tyson, promoter Don King and Tyson's attorney Alan Dershowitz were unsuccessful yesterday.