Rankings, an ordinal list, can result from tests or from contests. Start with contests, and take first the forms in which competitors play against each other. The score in such a contest indicates which player (team) performed better (earned more runs or goals, ran faster, jumped higher) against another or others on a given day. The score of a soccer match is the result of a direct, head to head competition. And the aggregation of these scores (in, for example, win-loss records) results in rankings – whether it be a soccer league or of all the professional tennis players or of all the Grand Master chess players in the world. Note that in such contests there are referees and timekeepers but not judges. Technology contests (e.g., solving the problem of determining latitude on the open sea, building the fastest computer, the lightest airplane, robotic cars on ever-more challenging terrain) operate according to similar principles.
I have to read this inside the context of annual city ratings and rankings; your favorite home town is nth on some magazine’s list of the top 100 cities in the world, and this is a cause for rejoicing.