Education Minister Mary Hanafin is expected to formally announce details soon of a system that will rank applicants based on their Leaving Certificate results and performance in an aptitude test.
Selection is likely to be open to those with at least 480 points out of a maximum 600.
The plan is part of a Government move to ease pressure on prospective student doctors. This was first suggested in the 2002 Programme for Government, and similar changes for entry to other high points professional healthcare courses such as dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy are likely to follow in later years.
Union president Richard Morrisroe said Ms Hanafin is correct to state that a person does not need to have a perfect Leaving Cert score to be a good doctor.
“All medical students must reach a standard of excellence before being allowed to graduate and practise, nobody is suggesting this would change.
“Reform of the college entrance requirements to include some form of aptitude assessment, alongside the Leaving Cert results, would not affect the graduation requirements in the slightest,” he said.
There have been some reservations about revised selection methods among the five existing medical schools at four universities and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland but they are believed to support the measures about to be finalised.
Mr Morrisroe said that past academic performance, as measured in the Leaving Certificate, is an imperfect indicator of future academic success.
The Government is providing funding for an extra 110 places for undergraduate medical students this year, bringing the number of places for Irish and other EU students up to 420. The first intake of 60 graduate medical students is being taken at University of Limerick and the Royal College this month, rising to 240 per year at these two colleges and other medical schools in the next few years.